City Commission to Take its Shot on Whether Golf Greens Sprout Homes

Woodlands Country Club. Photo by Sharon Aron Baron.

By: Anne Geggis

Chris Lips does not want to see the lake, and the golf course that sold him on his house turned into a swath of new homes in the Woodlands.

“Not in my backyard” is the rallying cry of a new group protesting the plans to change 165 acres of golf greens into 423 homes at the mammoth homeowner association that’s likely to be heard again when the city commission meets to consider the plan on Wednesday night.  And the sentiment against plans for the Woodlands is also catching on —  over at the city of Lauderhill.

On July 10, at its 7 p.m. meeting at city hall, the Tamarac City Commission will consider whether to allow the two 18-hole golf courses to be turned into residential space for these new homes. If approved there, it would also need a green light from the Broward County Commission. And, after the county level, it must come back to the city commission for a second review. A site plan for how the homes will be laid out and other site-specific issues must also make its way through city review after the zoning change gets a green light.

Al Guttentag, a member of the Tamarac Planning Board, said he’s seen residents coming around to the idea of the new investment in the area after hours and hours of contentious discussions about the plan’s effects on traffic, loss of green space, and lack of compatibility with the existing homes.

“It will be good for the community and the people who live there,” Guttentag said, on why he was sold on the plan.

The developer, 13th Floor Homes is promising this will be a long-anticipated upgrade for the 50-year-old community of 890 existing homes. It will become a gated community, protected by walls and fewer entrances.

But, on the night before Tamarac City Commission takes up the zoning changes,  the Lauderhill City Commission is scheduled to vote on a resolution to object to the developer’s planned entrances at  NW 64th Avenue and 44th Street. That’s where the cities share a border.

The resolution is symbolic at this point since the entrances have not come up for review. But Lauderhill Mayor Ken Thurston wants to get it on the record, sooner rather than later.

“I am a representative of the city, and in my city which I represent I have not had one resident who has come to me, and said, ‘This is a great idea, please give me more traffic.’” Thursday said. “Tamarac is welcome to develop the golf course but put the traffic on Commercial (Boulevard) and Rock Island Road. Don’t give it to Lauderhill.”

The developer, 13th Floor Homes, did not return emails seeking comments about Lauderhill’s objections.

For Lips, 49, who has lived in the Woodlands for three years, the new wrinkle, if passed, should invalidate the traffic study that the developer, 13th Floor Homes, conducted.

He is part of the Woodlands Defense Fund because he believes the city is not taking his concerns seriously. The lake and green views have provided an ideal place for playtime with his four boys. And the plans to add trails and other areas elsewhere don’t adequately address what’s going to be lost, he said.

“It was a lost battle before it started,” he said.

Beyond his own interest, though, he noted Tamarac’s policies discourage developing open space. The report that was written to justify the zoning changes do not make the case, he said. It’s based on the national view that golf courses are losing their appeal.

“Show us the books,” he said, of the situation at the Woodlands. “For the city staff to accept that [national trend mirrors The Woodlands’ golf popularity] is a slap in the face.”

But not all residents object to the increased density right around where they live.

Alvin Entin, president of the Woodlands’ Section 6, thinks the city commission should send the issue back to the planning board.

He said there’s no denying the property rights of the golf courses’ owner.

“They are going to change the use of the two golf courses because ClubLink does not want to operate them. And there hasn’t exactly been a rush of people to come in and take over the golf business.”

He said the city needs to work on getting more concessions from 13th Floor Homes as they have a track record of doing. There should be negotiations for fewer homes, bigger lots that are more consistent with the existing ones, and any amenities that might be built offered to current residents at reduced prices or free.

“There are things that can be done,” said Entin, who works as an attorney.

“You want to do it with someone who will negotiate, rather than someone who will steamroll through and do what they want.”

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Anne Geggis
Anne Geggis
Anne Geggis has been a newspaper reporter for 30 years, most recently at the Sun Sentinel. She graduated from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., with a double major in journalism and sociology.