WELLINGTON — Mark Bellissimo’s plan to build luxury neighborhoods in Wellington’s equestrian preserve has scored a few victories but far more defeats in its bid to win the endorsement of the village planning and zoning board.
In a 5-2 vote, the board early Thursday recommended the Village Council either delay or deny the north side of the project until Bellissimo’s team submits a formal application to expand and improve the Wellington International equestrian showgrounds.
Wellington North calls for building luxury apartments and homes in the area where Equestrian Village currently operates. It also calls for removing 96 acres at South Shore Boulevard and Pierson Road from the preserve to help make it happen.
Some residents fear removing those acres from the preserve would set a precedent for more development in the area.
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The planning board also recommended the council approve Wellington South, a community of luxury villas and 5-acre farms next to the showgrounds, after Wellington Lifestyle Partners agreed to reduce the number of residences there to 144 from its proposed 199.
Current zoning allows for 144 homes in the area, which lies between Lake Worth Road and Gracida Street. Paige Bellissimo, the developer’s daughter and the executive vice president of Wellington Lifestyle Partners, said at Wednesday night’s meeting her group would agree to the change.
The Village Council can consider Bellissimo’s two proposals in September or wait until his team submits its plans for the showgrounds. It was not immediately clear how quickly Wellington officials would receive those plans.
John Bowers, the planning board’s vice-chair, said the plans to expand the Wellington International showgrounds are crucial to consider approving the residential projects.
“Voting something out of the EPA [Equestrian Preserve Area] without that information is questionable,” Bowers said. “If it was truly for housing, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. No one would vote to take it out of EPA.”
The village’s Planning, Zoning and Adjustment Board met Wednesday night to vote on the presentation made last month by Wellington Lifestyle Partners. Village residents packed the meeting, which ended after midnight and saw lawyers for some of the most influential equestrian families in the village in attendance.
Board members approved rezoning 144 acres on the corner of Lake Worth Road and Gracida Street to commercial equestrian from residential to allow the expansion of Wellington International.
They also attached three conditions to the approval for Wellington South. Wellington Lifestyle partners would have to add more 5-acre farms, further reduce the number of homes for lots to be bigger than half an acre and have the team submit an updated site plan for the 147 units.
Since the last meeting, representatives from Wellington Lifestyle partners filed 17 changes to their application and added a voluntary condition that would require them to build the new showgrounds before they can demolish Equestrian Village to erect apartments, single-family homes and a clubhouse.
Jamie Gavigan, an attorney representing the Jacobs family, said the changes were sent to all interested parties Wednesday morning, hours before the meeting, and that there was not enough time for lawyers and the public to review the changes.
Regardless of the changes, Gavigan said, the family of Jeremy Jacobs, which owns Deeridge Farm in the preserve as well as the NHL’s Boston Bruins, is still opposed to high-density development in the preserve.
“The Jacobs family is against the removal of any land out of the EPA to develop a community without equestrian amenities,” Gavigan said. “You don’t need to remove 96 acres from the EPA to expand the showgrounds.”
Maureen Brenan, a Wellington resident, told the board she was disappointed that village residents didn’t have the chance to speak during the meeting despite all the changes to the application.
“This has been a circus for one of the most monumental things to happen in this community,” said Brenan. “This whole thing is a shame.”
This story will be updated. Check back with www.PalmBeachPost.com for new information.
Valentina Palm covers Royal Palm Beach, Wellington, Loxahatchee and other western communities in Palm Beach County for The Palm Beach Post. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @ValenPalmB. Support local journalism: Subscribe today.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Mark Bellissimo’s plan for equestrian preserve hits snag in Wellington