By Sharon Aron Baron
The prospect of building several hundred new homes is one step closer to reality for builder 13th Floor Homes.
The vote to change the recreational land-use designation for two 18-hole golf courses in the Woodlands was approved 5 -3 by the Broward County Commission. One commissioner walked off the dais, leaving the chambers just before the vote.
The meeting, held on May 4, wasn’t without tension — and controversy. First, Woodlands residents appeared either in person or by phone, sharing their opinions for or against the project.
Andy Felix, with the group, Defend the Woodlands said the first sport to return during the pandemic was golf and told commissioners, “There are other alternatives there.”
Felix was concerned with the arsenic in the fairways and the F grade from FDOT on the surrounding roadways. “It is unnecessary the risk you’re taking on. Please vote no on this today.”
Cecilia Klein Richards said she hadn’t heard of any real solutions from people that didn’t want the development. “I have watched the Woodlands go down so badly. I think the Woodlands needs 13th Floor to make this a better community.”
Judith Margolis wanted to keep the Woodlands golf course green and read a speech about how the commission must protect the interest of the citizens and the environment. “This is 168 acres in danger of becoming cemented,” she said.
A couple of Lauderhill residents in the Forest Lake community weighed in. They did not want the Woodlands to access 64th Avenue through their city and said the development should be restricted. “Woodlands should go through their [own] city. Please oppose this. “
Fanny Cruz supported the development. “110 percent. I think our property value will go up, and I think the improvements will be beneficial to our kids. I do think it’s a great project.”
Woodlands residents speak to the Broward County Commission during public comments
Mayor Geller Vice Mayor Michael Udine, and Commissioners Ryan, Bogan, and Fisher all voted yes. Commissioner Nan Rich, who represents the Woodlands, and Commissioners Barbara Sharief and Beam Furr voted no.
Commissioner Mark Bogen led the commission in adopting the land-use plan amendment. However, the Woodlands is not in his district, and Commissioner Nan Rich, the District 1 commissioner for the Woodlands, was opposed to the 13th Floor proposal.
Bogen offered an amendment which was agreed to by 13th Floor, that the land-use change will be deemed effective only upon there being language inserted in the restrictive covenants considered to be legally sufficient by the county attorney’s office to address FDOT’s concerns about the traffic impact caused by the proposal from 13th Floor.
One commissioner was noticeably missing from the vote.
Dale Holness exited stage left when public comments were almost complete and missed the voting. He returned to the dais shortly after the vote was completed and some time later in the meeting asked to be shown as voting no on the 13th Floor proposal.
Records show that Holness has received campaign donations from 13th Floor homes. On January 14, 2020, 13th Floor homes donated $1,000; on October 7, 2020, 13th Floor attorneys Dunay, Miskel & Backman LLP donated $1,000, and on May 21, 2019, Attorney Mike Moskowitz’s firm donated $500.
Both Holness, who was MIA at the time of the vote, and Sharief, who voted no, are running for Congress after the death of Alcee Hastings. The Woodlands is located in this congressional district. Sharief stated during the meeting that her emails from Woodlands’ residents were overwhelmingly opposed to the 13th Floor development proposal. She expressed dismay that the proposal had advanced this far considering the opposition of the residents.
In a statement, 13th Floor homes said the Broward County Commission’s recommendation of approval reflects the plan’s thoughtful design and planning, which will result in a viable and mutually beneficial plan for the community’s future.
“Our plans for The Woodlands will bring a 397-home community with a midcentury modern design aesthetic, over 160 acres of permanently preserved open space and lakes, landscaping features, the addition of a 5-mile recreation trail, controlled access gates, a new clubhouse with modern amenities, as well as much-needed infrastructure improvements that will improve community resiliency and stormwater retention.”
13th Floor also claims that additional public benefits will include over $3 million in annual and $10 million in upfront revenue to support local services like schools, emergency services, public art, and recreation.
Although 13th Floor states that they will address neighborhood traffic flow conditions with several offsite roadway improvements and ingress/egress options, many of their proposed roadway improvements appear not to be possible because either there is no right of way to construct additional lanes of traffic or there are a significant number of FPL poles and other infrastructure on the corner of those intersections.
The county’s approval now sends the proposal from 13th Floor back to the city for a final hearing. No date has been scheduled as of press time.
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