Wellington’s Village Council denied residents the chance to learn about competing proposals for K-Park when they voted to negotiate exclusively with a local jeweler whose group wants to build a horse park on the 67-acre parcel.
Mayor Bob Margolis, John Greene and Matt Wilhite voted on June 11 to sign a letter of intent with Palm Beach Horse Park LLC that precludes the village from discussing K-Park with anyone else for four to six months.
The three ignored requests by Anne Gerwig and Howard Coates to table discussion until Elion Capital LLC and Reinvent America LLC could pitch their proposals.
Ms. Gerwig and Mr. Coates had concerns, but generally favored the plan for a Western-style riding center and veterinary school. They thought it unfair, though, to lock out the other groups. Council members were familiar with their proposals, but residents were not.
“I think in order to make an objective decsion based on everything we have on the table we can’t do it in isolation,” said Mr. Coates. “We have to have a presentation from staff or the participants on all three proposals.”
The council last year rejected a science and technology campus by ReInvent America. The group submitted the same plan.
Elion wants to build a mixed use sports complex with several baseball fields, including one with a stadium suitable for major league spring training or a minor league field. They would pay $8 million in cash for the land and aren’t seeking financial assistance from the village.
Elion was to make its presentation on Tuesday but couldn’t because of the council’s agreement with Jack Van Dell, owner of Van Dell Jewelers and spokesperson for Palm Beach Horse Park.
The group would pay $10 million for the land, and wants the village to issue bonds for infrastructure. The four to six months is their window for figuring out financing and a business plan.
The facility would have some features similar to those Mark Bellissimo proposed for land he owns in the equestrian preserve, such as a hotel and show rings.
Messrs. Margolis, Wilhite and Greene opposed that project and got key financial backing for their campaigns from billionaire Jeremy Jacobs and his family, part time residents who also opposed the equestrian village.
Mr. Van Dell, an equestrian village opponent, donated $500 each to Mr. Wilhite and Mr. Margolis. The owner of the horse park’s public relations firm, Phelps Media Group, is also the Jacobs’ family spokesman. Mason Phelps donated hundreds to Messrs. Margolis, Wilhite and Greene individually and through his companies.
“We think that we got railroaded quite frankly,” said Anthony Siriani, an Elion partner. “I don’t think the town’s people really had the opportunity to make a decision. It was already predetermined.”
It certainly looks that way. K-Park is public property. The council owes the public a say in its development.
for The Post Editorial Board