Archived Story

Residents question potential White Oak rezoning

Published 7:49pm Thursday, April 18, 2013

“I think if we didn’t acquire that [property] it would have had a much larger impact,” Bellissimo said.

He said the entrances would remain the same for residential traffic as were created originally for the White Oak golf community.

Another mode of transportation into and out of the property that has some concerned is the inclusion of a heliport.

“It’s a dangerous sport, people do get hurt so having emergency access is important,” Bellissimo said.

Bellissimo also added that from time to time the helicopter pad might be used to transport in sponsors for the shows.

This was one of Pschirer’s main concerns. He said the noise from helicopters hovering overhead as investors, sponsors and potential property owners toured the area could become taxing.

“I don’t think the concept [of a helipad] is really even germane to most people,” Pschirer said. “Certainly emergency use is important and that is no issue at all, but when you have properties like this they are likely to use that to bring people in and out to tour the property.”

Bellissimo said they do not plan to use the heliport on a frequent basis.

“Some of the first residents moving into this property will be myself and my family,” Bellissimo said. “We of course would be sensitive to the noise created by helicopters and the effects that has on people, horses and other animals.”

Diane Clark was one of the first to purchase property inside the original White Oak development. She said the past owners came in making a lot of promises too.

“People here who are making decisions are trusting them without knowing all the information; everything they’ve talked about has been very vague,” she said.

Clark, who currently lives in Greenville, said she wants to know when those who already own property in the development will see the benefits of infrastructure such as water and sewer.

Smith said both are forthcoming as developers await a permit for water usage and seek a certificate of approval to move forward with sewage from Rutherford County.

What about waste?
Bellissimo said the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center is located in the Everglades, one of the toughest areas in the country with regards to environmental concerns. He said with upwards of 5,400 horses competing there at a given time there is a tremendous amount of waste. He said the same technology used there would be employed here.

The development agreement also states the developer does not anticipate Polk County having to construct or improve sewer facilities as sewer trunk lines were previously constructed at the exterior of the property by the Town of Rutherfordton for White Oak’s previous owners.

Wouldn’t other infrastructure be strained by a development of this size? Many wanted to know if there were plans for another fire station or additional police units.
Bellissimo answered that additional emergency personnel would certainly be needed for such large-scale events but they had no plans to build new fire stations within the development.

“One of the things we provide with our events is that we will contract with the county for both police and fire so we won’t tax the existing infrastructure but support it,” Bellissimo said.

Bellissimo, co-partner in Wellington, Fla., (Palm Beach International Equestrian Center) said when they took over in 2007, Wellington was a five to seven week horse show. They expanded the shows to 42 weeks and people began coming for longer periods of time, he said. Bellissimo said one of the first things they did in Florida was open it up to the schools and made it much more community active, which is what they plan to do in Polk County. He spoke of Wellington now doing fundraising for the community, inviting schools to sing the national anthem at the events, inviting seniors to come just to watch the horses as well as having Olympian horse riders.

Bellissimo said the partners see the Polk County property as an equestrian lifestyle for the whole community.

Christel Walters, a member of the Polk County planning board, which unanimously recommended the zoning, said the project still made her nervous.

“I’m not necessarily against the project, but I’m just scared for how much it could change the rural nature of Polk County,” she said.

Commissioners could consider approval of the rezoning as well as the 20-year development agreement following the public hearings.

Polk County resident Lee Stockdale said the project sounds like a great thing but as he’s learned more details he’s realized it likely has ripple affects beyond one segment of the county.

“Is this going to change the complexion of Polk County, period? I think it will,” Stockdale said. “That’s kind of a game changer for our area.”

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