Florida’s Global Dressage Festival Organizer Loses Court Case to Stop Local Government Control

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Global Dressage Festival grounds in Wellington, Florida. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Global Dressage Festival grounds in Wellington, Florida. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, May 6–Florida’s Global Dressage Festival organizer has been denied a temporary injunction to prevent the Wellington government from enforcing building codes that have limited use of the multimilllion dollar show grounds.

Florida Circuit Court Judge Jack S. Cox ruled after a day-long hearing in April that “clearly the Plaintiffs would suffer money damages, however that alone is insufficient,” and granted the Village of Wellington motion to dismiss the application.

“Plaintiffs failed to show how a temporary injunction will serve the public interest, since the only party that would benefit from the issuance of an injunction are the Plaintiffs and its customers,” the judge said.

The ruling means the Wellington government can maintain restriction on use of the dressage facility to only six months a year, from Nov. 1 to April 30, the period when five CDIs, including the only dressage Nations Cup outside western Europe as well as two World Cup events and a $120,000 (€92,000) CDI5* are staged.

The grounds were closed last Wednesday, May 1, thus preventing use of a covered arena in the hot and humid summer months unless changes are negotiated between the government and the organizer.

The plaintiffs were Far Niente Stables II, LLC and Polo Field One, LLC, two entities that own the grounds and are managed by Equestrian Sport Productions that operates the Global Dressage Festival and the companion Winter Equestrian Festival at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.

The legal skirmish was the latest in a series of lawsuits and formal ethics complaints involving the dressage grounds that is opposed by a small group of wealthy landowners in Wellington. They succeeded in funding the election of candidates to take control of the government which then revoked approvals and blocked further development of the dressage facility.

In its simplest form, this lawsuit argued that the dressage grounds were agricultural land and under Florida law exempt from enforcement of building, safety and other codes by the local government.

The judge said he did not believe the organizers had exhausted government administrative avenues to have the grounds exempted from government code enforcement.

“The Court feels compelled to report that the Court cannot find and is not ruling that Plaintiffs have failed to exhaust their administrative remedies as to other issues raised,” Judge Cox said, “as the evidence suggests that the Village may have failed or refused to schedule hearings thus making exhaustion of administrative remedies futile.”