By: Adam Baron
For the one hundred plus residents that were in attendance at the November 13th homeowner’s association meeting, the bad news fell like a ball in a sand trap: their beloved golf course would cease to be. In its place would be over 500 new homes to be built by 13th Floor Homes, a private south Florida developer which boasts of being “One of South Florida’s most experienced companies in golf course redevelopment.” Residents sat in shock as they learned that their beautiful golf course views would eventually disappear, some to be replaced with the prospect of staring into someone else’s backyard.
Originally created by Tamarac founder and developer Ken Behring in 1968, The Woodlands Country Club is a golf course community consisting of some 900 homes, some estate sized, most much more modest, but all featuring a unique architecture more fitting in Palm Springs than South Florida with its ever-pervasive Mediterranean facades. The 36-hole course was designed by world famous golf course architect Robert Von Hagge and PGA Tour player Bruce Devlin. The greens are lined with lush patches of trees and brush, and numerous lakes and canals that give the course its beauty. The thirty-six individual links snake their way throughout the whole community, affording most homeowners a beautiful golf course view to take in while they enjoy their morning coffee.
While originally member-owned, the course was sold to Canadian corporation ClubLink when it fell upon hard times in 2011. However, like other underperforming courses across the country, ClubLink’s inability to turn the course profitable has forced it to put it on the market. Currently, 13th Floor has an option to buy the course which is contingent upon the Tamarac city commission giving their approval for the plans.
Under the guise of an HOA meeting held by the Woodlands Homeowners Association, it was clear that the night’s whole agenda was to provide a stage for a presentation by 13th Floor Homes. According to association president Mike Jeknovorian, no residents in attendance were allowed to ask any questions, only board members, and insisted that pursuant to Florida Statute 617, there would be no recording of the meeting allowed. However, he never responded to a homeowner who asked where in the statutes this was stated.
The presentation made by Michael Nunziata, on behalf of the developer, was a well-polished powerpoint presentation which outlined their plans for building an additional 540 homes and overall improvements to the community as a whole. Among such improvements promised were the building a of new clubhouse for the community with a fitness center, the addition of 125 acres of green-space with walking, running and biking trails repurposed from golf cart paths, new lakes, and gated entrances with cameras and license plate readers.
What isn’t clear is how the new homes will mesh with the existing homes from an architectural standpoint. Resident Carolyn Chin remarked about her initial reasons for buying in the Woodlands:
“I bought in The Woodlands because of the size, quality, distinctiveness houses and beautiful green open space. Now it would appear my view will be blocked by a house.” She is also concerned about changing the entire nature, ambiance, appeal of Woodlands to a high density, highly trafficked community with cookie cutter houses on small lots.
If developer 13th Floor Homes’ other communities like Central Parc and Manor Parc (also located in Tamarac) serve as a template, residents can expect boxy, nondescript, two-story homes and townhouses set on zero-lot-line lots that could be as narrow as 30 feet wide in some areas. These will be in stark contrast to the existing homes that suggest more of a mid-century modern vibe and have unique features like atriums and breeze-block walls. Long-time resident Alvin Entin is skeptical:
“You destroy the essential character of this community by bringing in these boxes made of ticky-tacky.”
Adding to residents’ woes is what’s bound to be a long and disruptive construction process. 13th Floor Homes’ plan to add retention ponds in place of some of the greens means that huge quantities of soil that will have to be excavated and removed. Construction vehicles and the transportation of building materials would presumably be utilizing Woodlands Blvd, the main thoroughfare of the community.
Whether the residents of The Woodlands have any better options before them remain to be seen. It is unknown whether ClubLink has any other suitors. Many would argue that this proposed plan by 13th Floor is preferable to having an overgrown jungle stemming from an abandoned golf course. Whether the plan ultimately gets approved will be up to Tamarac’s city commission. Ultimately, it will be up to the residents to make sure their voices get heard.
(Proposed site plan below)