Balancing growth in a rural community

Published 9:54 am Wednesday, April 24, 2013

After two hours of community input, Polk County commissioners voted unanimously to give Tryon Equestrian Partners’ Mark Bellissimo and Roger Smith approval to move forward on a project slated to bring a potential $500 million worth of tax base to Polk County.

Plans for this project are vast with proposals aimed at bringing upwards of 12,000 people to Polk County on weekends during the spring, summer and even fall of the equestrian season.

Sentiments in the air of the commission meeting Monday, April 22 were anxious. Could this development really be the answer for bringing jobs to Polk County?

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Can we approve it without detriment to our rural lifestyle? Will these developers bring all that they promise and will they do so without cutting corners?

Some of these questions remain unanswered.

Smith and his wife, Jennifer, have lived in Polk County more than a decade. One hopes this tie to the community they’ve called home remains binding and guides Smith and his business partner delicately through the process. One also hopes that as Bellissimo and his family build a home here they too feel an obligation to preserve the heritage of Polk County as they complete this project.

They want the equestrian facility to happen fast and that is why they urged commissioners not to stall on their approval. Commissioners satisfied those requests, but not without some concessions for a public safety facility, restrictions on noise and light emissions and at least a verbal promise to use Polk County contractors for work. The developers showed a good faith effort in meeting several of the community’s requests, but there is still a long road in this now approved 20-year relationship.

If these developers keep to commitments made in both word and ink, then Polk County has a bright future ahead via an economic boost.

This will mean more jobs for the area – construction workers, equine veterinarians, restaurateurs, farriers and entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes stand to benefit. It will mean an increased tax base and the potential for additional monies flowing into our schools and non-profit organizations. It also means the potential for drawing new people to our area to experience the great businesses that already reside here.

In the end, this deal will unequivocally change Polk County.

We can only hope the result is one the community can be proud to say its leaders championed.