Palm Beach Post article “Wellington road re-routing irks residents
Wellington road re-routing irks residents
By Mitra Malek
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
WELLINGTON — A road realignment meant to make it safer for spectators and riders coming in and out of Palm Beach International Equestrian Center wasn’t legal and robbed neighboring landowners of their property rights, several residents who rely on the road to get to their homes contend.
Crews have been laying out a new route for about a quarter mile of Equestrian Club Drive, a three-quarter mile stretch from Pierson Road to Equestrian Club Estates, in hopes of finishing construction by the Wednesday opening of the Winter Equestrian Festival.
The newly routed private road, which shifts the road slightly to the east, will no longer split the show grounds and it has a dedicated area for horses to cross, among other things.
But several residents in Equestrian Club Estates contend they were legally entitled to weigh in on the road’s realignment.
“Before they had a chance to be heard, the roadway was being moved,” said Janet Teebagy, a lawyer with Schwarzberg & Associates, whom four residents have hired to represent them. “The rights that they have are recorded.”
What happened wasn’t fair, Equestrian Club Estates resident Carol Coleman said. “The general consensus is that we lost our easement.”
And the new route actually will make things more dangerous because the road is closer to several show rings, said resident Carmen Paterniti.
Village staff said that Wellington Equestrian Partners, whose subsidiary produces the Winter Equestrian Festival, indeed had a right to shift the road. That’s because Wellington Equestrian Partners controls Wellington Countryplace Homeowners Association, which owns the road.
Equestrian Club Estates has a general easement, which gives residents the right to get in and out of their property on the road, said Bob Basehart, the village’s growth management director. “That’s not going to change,” Basehart said.
Equestrian Club Estates’ property owners association worked with Mark Bellissimo, Wellington Equestrian Partners’ managing partner, for a year and half on the road’s realignment, board member David Riemer said.
“He had every legal right to do it,” Riemer said. “We could never have stopped it.”
From the village’s perspective, the new alignment makes sense because it consolidates the show grounds and its curbing will prevent people from parking along the sides, Basehart said.
The realignment was done mainly for safety, said Bellissimo, who lives in Equestrian Club Estates. “The bottom line is that this is a much better and more efficient entrance to this property.”