Wellington Equestrian Village debate rages on

WELLINGTON, Fla. - There will be a third day of discussion in a Wellington meeting regarding the proposed Equestrian Village, and it's expected to be another long day.

The whole debate revolves around the 96-acre proposed dressage facility that would go on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Pierson Road.  The developer, Mark Belissimo, considers the development a world class facility that would have a large hotel and retail shops.

At the village council, which began at seven o'clock Tuesday night, council members were looking at three different issues.

One of the items was amending the master plan to have four access points into the facility rather than one.  That measure was approved just before noon on Wednesday, two days into the meeting.

Tuesday night's crowd was much bigger than Wednesday's crowd, but the meeting was just as long.

After an hour and a half break for lunch when the approval was given to two more access points on Pierson Road and one more on South Shore Boulevard, they started a "quasi-judicial" hearing on the second item.

The second item was figuring out if bringing a commercial equestrian arena was the right fit for the area that it is going in.

"If they really dial down and look at the information, they're going to see that the impact is too great for that rural area," said Kimberly Jacobs, who opposes the project and has filed a lawsuit against it. "Those roads are not designed to handle that kind of impact."

The council meeting quickly turned into a courtroom with each lawyer having a set time of 20 minutes to plead their case.

During the discussion of the second item regarding the compatibility of the project, people in red shirts, including Jacobs, that had "No Equestrian Village" printed on them, argued and applauded when points were brought up they supported.

Despite that, the developer feels that this is still the right move for Wellington.

"I believe that this project will be so transformational and so positive and create jobs and opportunities," Belissimo said. "I just think people have a difficult time with change."

Each person who spoke during the public hearing portion and each lawyer who spoke was timed in the meeting that broke just before six o'clock Wednesday.

It was shortly after that and after the lawyers had given their closing arguments that Wellington Mayor Darell Bowen motioned to pick the meeting back up on Thursday at 9:30 in the morning.

The motion was passed but Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Carmine Priore said the remaining items must be handled on Thursday because he must go out of town on Friday.

What remains to be discussed on Thursday is the final decision on the compatibility of the project and changes the developer wants to make to the density of the project.

Belissimo would like to change the comprehensive plan to increase the building height for the proposed hotel.

Both Belissimo and Jacobs said they are in this fight for the long haul.

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