Bellissimo "Playing Chess" with Helgstrand's Global Equestrian Group to Secure Zoning Changes for New Golf Community in Wellington

Mon, 06/12/2023 - 18:42
Paige Bellissimo, representing her father Mark as managing partner of the Wellington Lifestyle Group (Wellington Equestrian Partners)

The Wellington Equestrian Preserve Committee (EPC) has voted 7-0 to deny Mark Bellissimo's 4.0 proposal to take land out of the preserve and build a luxury golf community near and on the horse show grounds.

Wellington Protects Horse Land

Wellington is a horse community with a seasonal influx of dressage, show jumping, hunter/jumper and polo competitors, horses, owners, trainers from all over the world bringing business, wealth, and luxury lifestyle to the Florida city. With it comes increased land prices, a booming real estate market, and heavily congested traffic.

In 2000 the "Equestrian Preserve" was created with its own zoning district with its own rules and regulations to protect the land and the character of the equestrian community.  It aims to maximize green space, control density, and maintain the rich equestrian character. 

For Bellissimo to go through with his building plans he needs to get planning permission and conversions of zoning areas first from the Equestrian Preserve Committee (EPC), who advises the Wellington Planning Zoning and Adjustment Board, who then sends their recommendations to the Village Council. To remove land from the Preserve requires 4 of 5 votes on the Council.

EPC Votes No

Two meetings were held on 7 and 8 June 2023 where Team Bellissimo presented its plans, followed by peppered questions from the seven Equestrian Preserve committee members, as well as statements from the general public, including from attorney James Gavigan Jr, who represents the Jacobs family (Deer Ridge Farm) and who is one of the strongest voices to protect the land in the preserve. (view recorded meeting here)

The EPC meeting on 7 - 8 June 2023
Mark Bellissimo did not appear at the meeting, but was represented by his daughter Paige, supported by Douglas McMahon (WLP’s managing partner), Michael Stone, and Danish Anders Beck as a representative of Andreas Helgstrand's Global Equestrian Group, amongst others.

Bellissimo's master plan titled "The Wellington" aims at building two luxury communities in its equestrian preserve, including on 96 acres within it that are now protected from development. Wellington North, at South Shore Boulevard and Pierson Road (Global Dressage Festival grounds), would  include 272 low-rise, luxury condominiums and 28 single-family homes. Wellington South, at South Shore and Lake Worth Road, would feature 148 homes, 143 of them villas on quarter- and half-acre lots and five of them farms of more than 4 acres.

Holding the Horse Show Hostage

What became abundantly clear from the two meetings is that Bellissimo has no plan in place whatsoever to expand, develop or improve the horse show grounds, but instead "holds the horse show hostage," as EPC board member Ben Myers stated.

Anders Beck of Global Equestrian Group. He mentioned
a 'signed deal' with Bellissimo on the expansion of the horse
show grounds
Bellissimo wants to piggy-back ride on the affluence the equestrian world brings to Wellington in order to develop his new golf community, drawing in the executives and their families from West Palm Beach. There is no intention, plan, or building permit in place to improve the horse show itself, of which Bellissimo's Wellington Equestrian Partners (WEP) is only a minority share holder. 

“We haven't even seen a sketch of the horse show,” EPC board member Jane Cleveland said at the meeting. “It's not real.”

The show jumping grounds (formerly known as Palm Beach Equestrian International Club) are owned by Global Equestrian Group, of which the Dutch private equity group Waterland is a 51% majority stakeholder. Helgstrand and all its incorporated companies (Beerbaum, Kittel, Kingsland, etc) are minority owners and do not make the final decision on major purchases, developments, sales, etc, as Anders Beck confirmed in the meeting. There was no representative of Waterland present.

Playing Chess

Douglas McMahon
During the presentation it became obvious that a game of chess was being played with Global Equestrian Group panting to secure more land to expand the horse show, but Bellissimo not selling it unless he gets approval for "The Wellington."

The chess piece is "a signed contract" between Bellissimo's group and Global Equestrian Group for almost 100 acres of land adjacent to the show jumping ground. However during the meeting it became clear that this contract is more a letter of intent, than an actual deed of the land, or sales document with legal assurances.

The land where the Global Dressage Festival is held is still owned by Bellissimo's Far Niente/WEP group, which GEG leases until 2025 to host the dressage show on.

Homework for Bellissimo

Listening to the voices of the Wellington citizens, the message to the EPC was clear:  no to the whole project.

Bellissimo, whose plans to build in the equestrian preserve already met with rejection in 2012 and 2016, now received more homework. 

Jane Cleveland, chair of the Equestrian Preserve Committee
"The developer’s plan (...) to make Wellington “the equestrian capital of the world” is silent on blueprints for the proposed new horse showgrounds," the Palm Beach Post posted. "They argued the company should have presented that part of its vision before making any requests to build luxury communities."

“I don't want to vote on the houses before I know about the equestrian center that they are going to build,” said Carlos Arellano, a Equestrian Preserve Committee member. “We need to see the plans.”

Bellissimo has a track record of not fulfilling promises he makes in order to get permits from the village. Last summer he ended up paying the town $1.3 million in-kind for the village to make the road improvements he had promised to do ten years ago as part of the condition for approval for the Global Dressage Festival.

"The Wellington" project will next go before the village Planning and Zoning Board, possibly as soon as July. The village council also must approve the request, a Council vote that is scheduled for the end of the summer.

Read a detailed report of the meeting in the Palm Beach Post 

Related Links
Bellissimo Presents Plan 4.0 - The Wellington - Turning City into Residential Club Community
Bellissimo Presents "Wellington 3.0", Plans to Move Dressage, Aims to Rezone GDF Show Ground
United States Polo Association Buys Polo Grounds in Wellington, Future of Global Dressage Festival?
Helgstrand's Global Equestrian Group, Waterland Private Equity, and Wellington Equestrian Partners Join forces