A recent ruling from a bankruptcy judge could put the kibosh on controversial plans to build an equestrian-aviation neighborhood in Wellington.
The Flying Cow Ranch project’s developer, Flying Cow Ranch HC LLC, filed for bankruptcy in March. The organization’s manager, James Hall of Jupiter, is listed as co-debtor in the company’s filing.
Hall had pitched Flying Cow Ranch as a development that would marry two quintessentially Wellington features: horses and airplanes. The 150-acre, triangle-shaped property is south of the Wellington Environmental Preserve and west of Flying Cow Road. Had the project been approved, it would have included single-family homes on large lots with barns or hangars, along with an extended, private airstrip.
The project has been on hold since Hall and Flying Cow filed for bankruptcy.
Last week, from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mindy A. Mora ruled against Flying Cow’s request to move forward with a land sale required for the project to become reality — an order that could kill the deal.
The future of the project hinges on the contract Flying Cow Ranch HC has to buy the land where the project is proposed. Of the just over $30 million the organization listed in assets on its bankruptcy filing, the majority lies in that contract.
Dated December 2014, the contract has not been executed and has been a major point of contention in the bankruptcy so far, with property owners the McCarthy Land Trust arguing to Mora that Flying Cow Ranch HC has not paid extension fees after failing to close within 30 months of the initial December 2014 signing.
Fort Lauderdale-based Thomas Abrams, who represents the McCarthy Land Trust, said in April that Flying Cow should be forced to decide if it wants the land or not. In response, Flying Cow argued the court should take into account project delays as the developer works with the village to obtain several key approvals to:
- Change the future land use for the smallest piece of the property from Palm Beach County conservation use to Wellington residential “B” to allow for homes to be built.
- Extend Wellington’s Equestrian Preserve Area to include the smallest parcel. The other two parcels already are included.
- Add proposed Flying Cow Ranch public and private trails to the village’s equestrian trails master plan.
- Receive approval of a master plan to allow 30 residential units, a clubhouse, hangars, barns, a recreational area and a tie-down space for airplanes. The master plan also includes extending the land’s existing airstrip to 4,000 feet with a 400-foot buffer at each end.
In June, Mora agreed in part with the McCarthys, and gave Flying Cow a deadline to make its decision. That deadline has been extended several times, and the debtors have appealed Mora’s ruling and two others in federal court.
Mora also ordered Flying Cow and the McCarthys to attend mediation, when she ruled last week.
It’s unclear if that mediation still could lead to a sale. In court filing, Abrams has said Flying Cow is “using this bankruptcy court as a litigation tool, delay tactic and free ride. This is not a good faith bankruptcy.”
Village officials have been told Hall plans to resubmit the applications with changes, Planning, Zoning and Building Director Bob Basehart said. The village has not yet received those plans.
Attorneys for Flying Cow Ranch HC and the McCarthy Land Trust did not return requests for comment this week.