By Sallie James
Say goodbye to the sprawling Woodlands golf course.
Tamarac commissioners early Thursday voted 3-2 to approve a controversial plan by 13th Floor Homes to build 335 single-family homes on the defunct 275-acre golf course on the southwest corner of Commercial Boulevard and Rock Island Road. The critical vote came around 2 a.m. during a marathon meeting that was packed with about 280 people at one point.
The project got the nod from Mayor Michelle Gomez and Commissioners Elvin Villalobos and Kicia Daniel. Vice Mayor Marlon Bolton and Commissioner Morey Wright voted against the project.
Commissioners approved a land use amendment and a zoning change and tentatively approved a developer’s agreement, the details of which must still be finalized.
“I think everyone is ready for the cloud of uncertainty to be lifted,” said Woodlands resident Emily Wilson, who attended the meeting in a green t-shirt emblazoned with a thumbs-up logo that said “Vote Yes. A Better Woodlands.” “I’d rather have single-family homes there than something else. I think the development should be allowed to move ahead.”
One of the additional and somewhat controversial proffers made by the developer is a $1 million contribution to the improvements of the proposed Shaker Village Community Center. Shaker Village is a private community of townhomes on the north side of Commercial Boulevard in Bolton’s district. Details of that project were unclear on Thursday. The developer has also offered to contribute to several other commission-favored charities.
Opponents of the 13th Floor Homes project said they were devastated. Many worry that the housing development will create gridlock by adding thousands more car trips to local roads. They are also concerned about arsenic levels in golf course soil that was heavily fertilized over the years and a loss of overall green space.
Wright said he voted against the housing development because of traffic.
“It would be a 700 percent increase in traffic to Commercial Boulevard between University Drive and Rock Island,” Wright said on Thursday. “I did not want to decrease the quality of life for residents. I am for smart development. Traffic on Commercial Boulevard is horrendous.”
Approximately 55 residents filled out cards to speak for and against the project, but many left because the meeting ran so late.
Fourteen-year Woodlands homeowner Phil Daspit, who owns a 2,700-square-foot home with a golf course view, expressed disgust on Thursday after learning of the “yes” vote.
“The whole thing just smells,” Daspit said, noting the charitable contributions and perks the developer offered to the city at a Monday workshop on the matter. “I’m more than disappointed.”
Villalobos said commissioners’ votes were based on fact, not emotion.
“It was a quasi-judicial hearing, and we voted based on facts. It met all city, state, and county requirements. And as much as it burdened some people, this community overwhelmingly wanted this project,” Villalobos said afterward. “The Woodlands was going downhill. Community members wanted this buy-in. After five or six years, we couldn’t say ‘no’ to it.”
Plans for the Woodlands project include an 8,000-square-foot clubhouse, two tennis courts, two paddle ball courts, a playground, a fitness center, a swimming pool, and a café, according to 13th Floor Homes attorney Scott Backman. The developer wants to build sidewalks and add a recreational trail going through the community.
Backman has said the company proposes to develop 160 acres of the 275 acres of the golf course, retaining open space.
- Sallie James is a veteran reporter/blogger/copywriter who spent most of her writing career in South Florida, including 22 years at the Sun Sentinel. She has also freelanced for The Coastal Star, South Florida Gay News & Florida Weekly. Sallie is the mother of grown boy/girl twins, a Guardian ad Litem, an animal rescuer, and a longtime Tamarac resident. She earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from Indiana University.
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