By Anne Geggis
It’s getting closer to “game over” for the Woodlands’ golf greens — a developer won another round of approvals that will clear the way for hundreds of homes to sprout on the mammoth subdivision’s green acres.
Following Tamarac’s planning board, the city commission, and the Broward County Planning Council, the Broward County Commission Monday gave its blessing for two 18-hole golf courses to be used for 397 new homes. The vote was 6-2, with commissioners Nan Rich and Beam Furr voting against it.
Next, the proposal to allow residences on a swath now designated for recreational use will go to the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity for review and then return to the Tamarac city commission for final approval.
“The commission’s favorable vote and county staff’s recommendation for approval reflect the widespread support that 13th Floor homes have earned within the local community,” said Allie Schwartz Grant, spokeswoman for the developer, 13th Floor.
It came as a blow for neighbors who have organized against losing the velvety green views behind their homes they thought would remain in perpetuity. But their representative vowed to fight on as the next round of required approvals tees up.
“In every stage, we have the hope they will listen to us,” said Jose Spena, who owns one of the nearly 900 existing homes in the Woodlands. “It’s been heartbreaking.”
After state regulators look it over, the change in land use rules is expected to be back before the City Commission for its approval sometime early next year.
Meanwhile, the nuts-and-bolts details that affect drainage, traffic flow, home placement, and other landscaping details are now making their way through Tamarac’s regulators.
Formal golf play ended in August, when the course’s current operator, ClubLink, blamed the pandemic for even more of a drop in golfing interest. But the plan to put homes here and upgrade the subdivision’s entrances has been in the works for years and part of a larger trend that is transforming golf courses all over Florida. As the game’s popularity decreases, developers see a way to turn greens into lucrative residential developments.
According to the city’s residential zoning rules, changing the designated use from recreational to residential could have put up to 800 new homes on this acreage. But the developer has promised to limit the number of new homes to 397 and preserve some 165 acres for open space, with new lakes, landscaping features, and a 5-mile hiking trail.
Opponents of the plan are now turning their attention to fighting against the site plan, which still must win approval from the Tamarac’s design review board, the planning board, and the city commission.
The design board is now in its fourth round of working out some of the development details. And Lauderhill opposes the developer’s plan to put new entrances at Northwest 64th Avenue and Northwest 44th Street, which border Lauderhill. Fights over traffic and drainage loom.
Spena said the Woodlands neighbors united to stop the greens from becoming new homes will keep sending emails and summoning the crowds. The July 2019 city commission meeting that ended in the city commission’s 3-2 approval to change the Woodlands’ golf courses into homes was the longest on record, clocking in at more than 10 hours.
With the upcoming election potentially shaking up the city commission votes on the plan, hope remains that the 50-something subdivision will remain as an example of a bygone era of South Florida’s development. Most of the homes are done in the “Miami Modern” style with generously sized lots and not zero lot lines the 13th Floor’s plans show.
“This place is unique,” Spena said.
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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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