Wellington coalition seeks ousting of mayor, council over Bellissimo vote

Next vote tied to massive development is set for meetings beginning Tuesday

Wellington Residents Seek Council Recall Over Bellissimo Vote

From left: Councilmembers Anne Gerwig, Michael Drahos, John McGovern and Tanya Siskind (Getty, Acme Improvement District, Facebook)

A group of Wellington residents is seeking to recall town mayor Anne Gerwig and the council members who voted in favor of Mark Bellissimo’s massive proposed development in the equestrian town. 

The Coalition to Protect Wellington is collecting signatures to move forward with their recall efforts for Gerwig and village council members Michael Drahos, John McGovern and Tanya Siskind, the Palm Beach Post reported. Gerwig and Drahos will be out of office by the time a recall effort is completed, if successful. The group will need to collect signatures from nearly 2,300 registered voters in Wellington to progress to the next stage; then about 6,900 signatures to head to a ballot. 

The Wellington village council voted on first reading in November to approve Bellissimo’s group’s proposals. Wellington Lifestyle Partners, a joint venture between Bellissimo’s Wellington Equestrian Partners and Nexus Luxury Collection, sought land use and density changes that include transferring 96 acres out of the Equestrian Preserve. That has never been done before.

Maureen Brennan, who is leading the group opposing the development, told the Post that the vote marked a “complete betrayal to what this community is.” The next vote is set for meetings that will start next Tuesday, Jan. 23. 

Nexus includes British billionaire developer Joe Lewis’ Tavistock Group, golf greats Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, singer-songwriter Justin Timberlake and founding eBay president Jeff Skol. Lewis turned himself in to the feds last summer on insider trading charges from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The federal government alleged he orchestrated a “brazen insider trading scheme.”

The mixed-use luxury housing project would be divided into Wellington North and South. It calls for single-family homes, condos, a commercial complex and an expansion of the Wellington International equestrian facility and showgrounds on hundreds of acres.

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Bellissimo has threatened to close Equestrian Village if Wellington rejects the proposals, which would affect dressage competition. 

Residents’ concerns, voiced during hours of public comment, included that they believed the development would set a bad precedent and harm the village’s equestrian character. 

Brennan told the newspaper that the council ignored the hundreds of people who spoke out against the project at public meetings last fall. 

“It didn’t matter. It meant nothing,” Brennan said.

— Katherine Kallergis