WELLINGTON COUNCIL ALLOWS PALM BEACH HORSE PARK TO PROCEED WITH PLANS
Wellington, FL – June 13, 2013–Wellington’s Council meeting on Tuesday night, June 11, produced a standing room only crowd. There were several items on the meeting’s agenda of interest to members of the community. But, you could tell that an equestrian issue was on the docket by the number of people in the audience wearing cowboy hats and boots. In fact, the Wellington Council was scheduled to discuss the Letter of Intent, submitted by the Palm Beach Horse Park, LLC, for the purchase and development of an American Quarter Horse show complex.
Jack Van Dell, a long-time Wellington resident and local business owner, did a PowerPoint presentation for the Council and audience members as he outlined the proposed plans for the new horse park. Van Dell has been working for over a year, with a small group of community and equestrian leaders, to develop a unique horse park in Wellington, the Palm Beach Horse Park. Part of their plan is to purchase Wellington’s K-Park property, located on the corner of Stribling Road and State Road 7/441, and to utilize the location for the horse park.
“Wellington is considered the equestrian capital of the world,” explained Van Dell. “Mark Bellissimo has built a wonderful facility that attracts equestrians from around the world who are interested in hunter/jumper competitions, and the International Polo Club brings world-class polo to town. But, there is a huge element of the horse world that is not represented in Wellington—the American Quarter Horse, as well as many other breeds.” The evening’s presentation highlighted not only the unique designs the horse park would include to cater to the needs of the American Quarter Horse, but also the many civic benefits it would offer to Wellington and the surrounding communities.
After the presentation outlining the elements of the proposed Palm Beach Horse Park, Van Dell proceeded to explain the need for a Letter of Intent from the Wellington Council. “We have been working on this project for over a year, now, and have spent a considerable amount of time and money to flesh-out the concept. Before we can move forward, we would like to have a commitment from the Village-a Letter of Intent. Signing a Letter of Intent will indicate that the Village would like to see the Horse Park on the K-Park property.
At this point, audience members were invited to comment on the project and there were speakers voicing both pro and con opinions.
The first to approach the podium to speak, wearing her cowboy boots, cowboy hat and sparkling belt, was Laverne Jones. “There is nothing here in Wellington where a person from the Western disciplines can ride or compete, and you are missing a big portion of the equestrian community.” said Jones. “There are 33 Western disciplines competing in Florida, but none of them have an opportunity to be here in Wellington. And if you include them, they will all come to town with their families and spend money!”
Alyce Michelbring, the former president of the Palm Beach County Mounted Posse, further explained the need for the new park. “We can’t ride at the Jim Bandon Center or at Mr. Bellissiomo’s place because those facilities have special footings required for those types of horses and sports. If we rode our horses out there, we would destroy them.” Michelbring explained. “There isn’t a covered arena in town for us to ride…and all our horses require is DIRT! If this proposed Horse Park was built, it would be the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ for Wellington.”
Some audience members questioned the process to get this project to this approval point. But, Laurie Cohen, Wellington’s lawyer, assured them that this was a process afforded all other projects, as well.
Two local equestrian veterinarians were on hand and voiced their concern about the Palm Beach Horse Park’s proposed plan to include a leading veterinary university as part of the facility. Dr. Swerdlin felt that bringing in a university veterinary facility would have a detrimental effect on the local veterinary practices and would not offer the equestrian community any skills that weren’t already available. In fact, Mayor Margolis pointed out that when he first saw the Palm Beach Horse Park plans, he was the person that suggested that a veterinary school be included. Margolis asked Van Dell to work with the local Vets to come up with a plan that would be agreeable to everyone.
In conclusion, Van Dell urged the Council to grant the Letter of Intent for the Palm Beach Horse Park, LLC. He pointed out that his group was only asking for some assurance from Wellington that he should proceed with the park’s development. The Letter would cover only the next 120 days, with a possible granting of an extension at that time. “If granted, we will be working with Wellington during the next 120 days to create the best possible facility that meets the needs of everyone involved.” Van Dell explained. “This has been a work in progress for over a year, now, and it will be a work in progress 20 years from now.”
The Wellington Council voted positively on the Palm Beach Horse Park LLC’s Letter of Intent, enabling the project to proceed with plans.