Wellington’s council could end one of the most contentious periods in the village’s history tonight by giving final approval to developer Mark Bellissimo’s dressage complex in the equestrian preserve. The billionaire Jacobs family, though, has asked for changes that some horse owners say will inconvenience them for no good reason.
The council will consider two applications from Mr. Bellissimo that would allow him to hold equestrian events year-round in his facility at Pierson Road and South Shore Boulevard. The applications are the culmination of four months of discussions between Mr. Bellissimo’s team and village staff since the council approved a settlement in June that put the developer’s lawsuits against the village on hold while he pursued the new approvals.
Mr. Bellissimo sued Wellington after Mayor Bob Margolis and councilors John Greene and Matt Wilhite voted to revoke, on a technicality, permits he received from a previous council to operate dressage. The three campaigned in 2012 against the developer’s plans to build an $80 million commercial equestrian village with a hotel, but supported the dressage component. The Jacobs family, which owns an estate near the equestrian site, opposed the project and spent more than $500,000 to support Messrs. Margolis, Greene and Wilhite.
The new plan does not include any of the commercial aspects residents found objectionable. The Planning Zoning and Advisory Board has approved the applications, as has the Equestrian Preserve Committee. Village staff has recommended that the council approve the applications, with requirements that include Mr. Bellissimo paying for a westbound left turning lane on Pierson Road.
Members of the Jacobs family object to the turning lane and want South Shore Boulevard designated as the primary entrance to the site. They also do not want left turning lanes on the eastbound side of the road.
“They don’t want to expand the two-lane road,” said Mat Forrest, executive director of the Wellington Equestrian Preservation Alliance and a local spokesman for the Jacobs family. “It’s a rural equestrian area. It’s against what most people in the equestrian preserve want.”
While the Jacobses approve of Mr. Bellissimos’ plans, Mr. Forrest said, expanding the road to add the turning lane would lead to more traffic. He admits, though, that a traffic study by Mr. Bellissimo’s team says only about 7 percent of cars would use Pierson Road.
Planning and Development Services Director Tim Stillings said staff recommended the turning lane, to alleviate traffic on South Shore Boulevard. Mr. Bellissimo said it would be cheaper for him to not pay for the turning lane, but he is willing to do so for safety.
Equestrians who live in the area say not being able to turn left from Pierson would force them to bring their horse trailers a significant distance from the property to make a U-turn to gain access, which would be difficult and unnecessary.
It’s hard to see the Jacobs’ family request as anything other than an attempt to keep traffic off Pierson Road and as far as possible from their estate. That’s not a good reason for the council to go against staff recommendations. The council should approve the applications and finally end this horse saga.
for The Post Editorial