After more than 90 minutes of back-and-forth discussion, the Village Council on Tuesday night approved 86 more stalls be added at the Equestrian Village for the Winter Equestrian Festival.
Mark Bellissimo, the owner of the venue, said the larger number of stalls would allow the show to grow and lower the number of people they’d have to turn away from storing their horses on festival grounds. The 12-week festival starts in January and ends in late March.
“We’re trying to offer a very high-quality product and that’s why (the festival) has grown year after year,” he said.
The motion passed 3-2 with Vice-Mayor John Greene and Councilman Matt Willhite as the dissenting voices. Greene and Willhite had tried three unsuccessful motions prior to the final vote, with stall increases ranging from zero to 50.
“We talk about people having a good experience,” Greene said. “The most important thing we have to address is, ‘What is the public safety concern?’ “
Fifty stalls will be added to an existing tent and the other 36 will be under a tent in a new area that wasn’t being used.
Village engineer Bill Riebe said more stalls will likely mean more cars on a road that has already had major traffic issues during the festival.
A staff member also noted that the traffic problem could have been mitigated by two required projects that Bellissimo has not completed.
He was originally planning to lengthen 40th Street South and work on the intersection of South Shore Boulevard and Pierson Road this summer, but it’s now on hold until next year. He has until the end of 2016 to complete the project. He said the holdup is because of a pending lawsuit from the Jacobs family, who have been against more development in the equestrian area.
Riebe suggested that the council should not increase the number of stalls because of the traffic concerns.
“It’s an F now, so if it goes to an F-, it’s still an F,” he said of Pierson Road.
Other changes in the permit include a reduction of capacity from 1,735 to 1,500, which allows Bellissimo to repurpose some seats into a VIP tent.
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