Jane Cleveland: "Wellington at a Crossroads"

Tue, 10/10/2023 - 01:43
Guest Column
Jane Cleveland, U.S. Grand Prix rider, owner of Poinciana Farm and chair of the Wellington Equine Preserve Committee :: Photo © Astrid Appels

Jane Cleveland is a Grand Prix dressage rider and has a career in real estate. Jane currently serves as Chairman of the Equestrian Preserve Committee for the Village of Wellington and serves on the United States Dressage Federation Audit Committee. She is from Miami, spent many years in Nashville, TN, and moved to Wellington full time in 2012 where she owns and operates Poinciana Farm.

"Wellington at a crossroads" 

Dressage in Wellington is central to the vote this week by the Village Council on whether or not to approve Wellington North and South, a controversial golf development on the site where the Global Dressage Festival now resides.  Also on that site is a world class grass Derby field and two polo fields.

“What would happen to Dressage?” is just one of the main questions about this development.  “What would happen to Wellington’s Equestrian Preserve?” is another.  9000 acres in Wellington has a special zoning designation protecting it from development and preserving it for horses.  The developers want to remove that designation, which means take land out of the Preserve and open the door for more land to follow. 

We watched this happen in Boca Raton just south of us – once the heart of polo in South Florida, which now is all houses and traffic.

No Plans For Dressage!

As the applications have been through the review process all summer, it has been made clear that Wellington would only get a new horse show (and maybe a dressage facility) on the condition that the golf development will be approved. 

Until last week, we had heard only vague references to horse show plans which include acquisition of the 114 acres plus the astronomical cost of construction.  Who will pay for that?  Global Equestrian Group owns the horse show.  From recent news it is assumed they do not have funding in place for any of this

In a last minute move last week the developers submitted an actual application for a new horse show, along with a letter sent to the community. This letter says they will build the dressage facility on the new land, but the sketch ( see left) shows a jumping show on that new land and nothing for dressage.

Failed to Deliver on Past Promises

The proposed expansion (right) of the WEF show grounds,
not on the land of the Global Dressage Festival. That land
Bellissimo hopes to take out of Wellington Equine Preserve to
turn into a lucrative, residential golf community
Unhappily, this land owner representative (the actual land owners are ‘incognito’ and Wellington hasn’t even questioned who they might be) has failed to deliver on past promises. 

When GDF was built a decade ago, a “condition” to improve the adjacent intersection was legally agreed to, but never built.  As a result, GDF from day one has run at 50% capacity.  New “Conditions” are being negotiated for a replacement dressage facility – as we speak they are woefully short on details, mention of a schedule or recognition that it must involve the FEI and CDIs. 

Never mind will they ever deliver?  Or does Dressage belong amidst the hunters and jumpers?  Meanwhile there are several other dressage venues in the Wellington area.

Nothing in Place, No Guarantees

Nobody on the Village Council or staff has any horse experience.  The developer, who only last week agreeing to build a horse show, is a luxury residential builder as that is where the real money is to be earned.

The land owner representative has a very poor track record of fulfilling promises.  The current horse show owner is not in the position to acquire land and build facilities.   No community planning has been done to determine the appropriate design, layout, operation, features of a new horse show. 

Furthermore, new information submitted by environmental experts asserts that the land designated for horse show expansion is mostly wetlands and can’t be developed.  

Wellington Deserves a Preserved Preserve

The cart is before the horse.  And they want golf before the horse... in Wellington. Wellington is known for green space and horses. Without green space, there would be no horses. Without green space, Wellington would lose its low density and open spaces that make it unique and beloved.  The developers are trying to take that away. Letting just one acre go starts the process of unravelling it all.

The council's two advisory boards already voted to deny. Will the Council stand by the Wellington brand and side with their constituents? Hoping the Council listens to the overwhelming opposition and votes “No”. Preserve the Preserve!

(Editor's note: on 10 October 2023 Wellington Lifestyle Partners asked for a delay on the plan to build two luxury home communities. The Village Council was scheduled Tuesday 10 Oct to start as many as three nights of meetings about the proposals. Bellissimo’s team called out of the meeting an hour before it was set to start. Village manager Jim Barnes broke the news to the council in a room packed with residents eager to see the final plans and to voice their comments on the proposals. Members of the village council voted unanimously to grant Bellissimo’s request for a delay and will review the applications on 13 November. Members of the public were less forgiving.)

Related Links
Former FEI Secretary General Michael Stone Joins Wellington Equestrian Partners
Global Equestrian Group Hopes to Expand, Bellissimo is Not Selling...Yet
Bellissimo "Playing Chess" with Helgstrand's Global Equestrian Group to Secure Zoning Changes for New Golf Community in Wellington
Bellissimo Presents Plan 4.0 - The Wellington - Turning City into Residential Club Community