A growth groupâs proposal for turning the previous Tides Golf Membership right into a housing neighborhood comes with a giant environmental pitch.
Soil contaminated with pesticides from years of turf therapies could be cleaned throughout development. New ponds would seize and deal with runoff that now flows unfiltered into Boca Ciega Bay. Even the title of the event evokes a respect for nature: Restoration Bay.
However in a report accomplished this month, Pinellas County planners cited important environmental issues in regards to the proposal, led by Tampa developer Ron Carpenter, to place 273 houses on the 96 acres in unincorporated Seminole. They advisable the county deny the land use change wanted for the group to construct on a number of the areaâs final remaining inexperienced house.
On account of uncertainty over the coronavirus outbreak, it’s unclear when the Native Planning Company will meet to vote on the applying, a step required earlier than the Pinellas County Fee weighs in.
Ed Methfessel, whose residence borders the golf courseâs ninth gap, nonetheless sees a bigger battle forward. The countyâs report is encouraging, he mentioned, however residents have seen this earlier than. An Arizona developer tried to construct on the property nearly a decade in the past, prompting Methfessel to type a neighborhood alliance referred to as Save the Tides.
That developer walked away from a contract to purchase the golf course in 2014 after county workers suggested in opposition to the land use change. Two years later, Carpenterâs group purchased the property and closed the course to the general public in 2018 earlier than submitting its plan.
âPinellas County as a complete is mainly constructed out, so for future generations we wish individuals to take pleasure in an oasis in the midst of a concrete jungle,â Methfessel mentioned. âIf we as a neighborhood donât stand as much as builders, theyâll simply mow us over.â
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The Tides is a rarity within the stateâs most densely populated county. The property was platted in 1926 however housing by no means got here to the virgin Florida soil.
It was used for cattle grazing earlier than a golf course opened in 1973. Nothing greater than a clubhouse was constructed on the 96 acres â 150, counting the mangroves and wetlands.
The property abuts the 187-acre Boca Ciega Millennium Park, which is a state-recognized birding path and the location of a serious 2007 archaeological discover of Pleistocene-age fossils. A bald eagle was noticed there twice this week, mentioned Clearwater Audubon Society president Barb Walker.
In line with Tim Scofield, principal planner with Pinellas County, Paleoindian-era fossils relationship to the earliest interval people appeared in Florida are additionally regarded as buried on the Tides property. The previous golf course is now a habitat for quite a lot of wildlife like herons, gulls and softshell turtles.
A lot of the 5,300 acres of personal open house left in Pinellas County are taken up by golf programs, which makes defending them from growth a vital challenge, mentioned Richard Gehring, a veteran Tampa Bay planning official employed by Save the Tides to characterize their effort.
If the county grants a land use change on the Tides from recreation open house to residential, Gehring fears different builders would be capable to use the case as precedent to pave over extra inexperienced house.
âThere may be one elementary level that should be interjected into the scramble to search out sufficient land for everyone,â Gehring mentioned. âAs soon as open house and pure areas start to be nibbled away, they’ll inevitably be misplaced, plain and easy, and they won’t come again.â
Two different native golf programs just lately had been spared from growth. In January the Pinellas County Commission bought the abandoned 42-acre Baypointe Golf Course in Seminole to protect as a park and a regional stormwater administration space.
Carpenter had been beneath contract to purchase Baypointe for a housing challenge however walked away when it was decided the property had no growth rights.
And the proprietor of the 150-acre Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Membership, additionally in Seminole, was beneath contract final yr to promote the property to Wheelock Communities and Gentry Land, firms that developed the sprawling Starkey Ranch in Pasco County. However Blake Lyon, the countyâs director of constructing and growth overview companies, mentioned on Thursday that no rezoning utility was ever submitted for the Bardmoor property.
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Defending the restricted quantity of open house in Pinellas County is a matter of coverage.
The countyâs complete plan prohibits the conversion of publicly owned recreation land to make manner for growth. In terms of privately owned open house, the plan explicitly discourages zoning modifications. Rezoning of personal open house would require âa comparable stage of public profit,” in line with the workers report.
County planners wrote that regardless of the developersâ proposal to deal with stormwater runoff from Restoration Bay and surrounding subdivisions, the general public good thing about the housing challenge doesn’t offset the lack of open house.
There are additionally important flooding dangers, in line with the county report. Your entire property sits within the Coastal Storm Space and nearly three-fourths of it’s within the 100-year flood plain, conflicting with the countyâs targets to direct growth away from delicate areas. County projections additionally present a lot of the southern portion affected by sea-level rise within the coming many years.
Carpenter declined an interview request, citing the quasi-judicial nature of the upcoming county listening to on his utility.
His groupâs utility bases its request for 273 items on the structure of the unique plat from 1926. County workers, nevertheless, famous that the propertyâs earlier proprietor vacated the plat in 1992.
Taylor Morrison, the final developer to use for a land use change of the property, submitted plans to the county earlier than shopping for the golf course; its buy trusted the land use change and rezoning being granted.
However Carpenterâs group purchased the property in 2016 for $three.eight million, closed the golf course to the general public in 2018 after which submitted redevelopment plans to the county.
Carpenter declined to reply what his group plans to do with the property if the county denies his land use change request.
Earlier than withdrawing its utility in 2014, Taylor Morrison had proposed constructing 170 houses on the property, 103 fewer than Carpenterâs proposal. Taylor Morrison additionally proposed preserving 18 of the 96 acres for inexperienced house versus the 10 acres preserved in Carpenterâs utility.
However county workers on the time was simply as immune to this less-intense growth.
âEssentially, workers is anxious that personal recreation/open house lands should not change into usually seen as âvacantâ and developable land in our built-out county,â in line with the 2014 workers report.
âWith a flood insurance coverage disaster and related excessive climate and sea stage rise issues looming within the county, it’s tough to assist the introduction of inhabitants density right into a coastal space the place residential growth has not been permitted for 40 years,â workers wrote.
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The Save the Tides group didn’t cease their activism after the final developer walked away in 2014. They continued assembly to debate the following inevitable try and pave over the greens and continued gathering signatures from golfers, residents and guests supporting their trigger.
Their petition now has 19,166 signatures, a statistic resident Ron Stephens just lately famous in certainly one of his common emails to Pinellas County commissioners urging them to protect the Tides perpetually. About 200 residents confirmed as much as a March workers listening to on the applying, many in inexperienced Save the Tides shirts, to indicate solidarity in opposition to the challenge.
Stephens mentioned ideally he wish to see the homeowners revert the property again right into a golf course or flip it right into a park to attach with the neighboring Millennium Park.
In an interview, Stephens mentioned the mission isn’t about dropping the view behind his residence. It’s about making preservation a precedence in Pinellas County, some extent he articulated in his most up-to-date e-mail to elected officers.
âOur county is densely populated, everyone knows that,” Stephens wrote. “Deny this growth plan and all of the evil it stands for.â