By Anne Geggis
It’s not the 18th hole yet, but it’s getting close to the end of the contest between a developer’s plans for the Woodlands golf greens and those who want to keep the mammoth homeowners’ association more like it is now.
A scheduled May 4 Broward County Commission vote would allow the “recreational” land designation of two 18-hole golf courses at the Woodlands to be changed to “residential,” thus making it possible for developers to move forward with building nearly 400 homes there. If the change in land use designation sails ahead in front of the county commissioners, it goes to the Tamarac City Commission for final approval.
If the land use designation for the 187 acres is changed – as it was by a 3-2 commission vote at the proposal’s debut in 2019 – it will leave opponents of the development to fight over the details of site plans, drainage capacity, and traffic movement.
Bryce Short, a Woodlands resident, is undeterred in his opposition to turning golf greens into swaths of homes, even if the actual, organized golfing ended when the golf club closed in August 2020.
“There’s so much that’s going to die when they build these houses, and that’s a sin,” Short said. “The otters are adorable. There are so many birds, herons, and gallinules …”
The developer, 13th Floor Homes, says the new homes and upgrades for the entrances to the Woodlands will give the association of about 900 homes a much-needed upgrade. And, so far, the area’s elected leaders have agreed with 13th Floor. The change in land use designation won its first pass in front of the city commission, the county planning council, the county commission last year.
After that first set of approvals, state regulators looked at it and sent it back for another set of local reviews. And the proposal’s second pass in front of the Broward County Planning Council on Feb. 25 passed with a 12-4 vote, despite state regulators finding that road on the development’s northern boundary is already at a failing level of service during commuting hours.
Between Rock Island Road and the turnpike entrance, Commercial Boulevard is already carrying 24 percent more vehicles than it should be, a transportation specialist found.
Jose Spena, another Woodlands resident, is incredulous the change went through the Broward County Planning Council even though Broward’s development codes call for development only when roads can meet the demands placed on them by proposals under review.
“The (Broward County) commission should send the development back to square one,” he said.
Opponents have already begun moving their sights to when the proposal comes back to the Tamarac City Commission, though. One of the “yes” votes on the commission, District 3 representative Julie Fishman, did not win re-election. And Vice Mayor Elvin Villalobos, who replaced her, is sounding like he could swing the commission against the change in land use if commissioners Mike Gelin and Marlon Bolton remain against it as they were when it first came to the Tamarac City Commission.
“If the Florida DOT (Department of Transportation) is giving you an ‘F’ now, (adding more traffic) can’t be good for the community,” Villalobos said.
A spokeswoman for the developer, 13th Floor Homes, says her company is well aware of the traffic problems and will continue to work with state and local agencies to make sure improvements move forward with the plan.
Commissioner Mike Gelin would not say if he plans to continue to vote against the change in use for the golf course, explaining that he can’t pre-judge a city commission hearing like the one the land-use change will be getting in the coming months.
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- 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.
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