By Agrippina Fadel
Woodlands’ residents told the city commission how they felt about the rezoning and proposed development of the golf course in the community during the city commission meeting on Nov. 10 — with most expressing support for the project.
Over 49 residents spoke during public comments, despite the that the official public hearing was postponed after the developer, 13th Floor Homes, sued the city of Tamarac.
In the suit, 13th Floor Homes claims the process by which the city is considering its development plan violates the law.
Lawyers for the company argue the city’s plan that was to hold a Nov. 10 legislative-style hearing considering an extension for the Woodlands Golf Course site plan is illegal. The reason: a “quasi-judicial” hearing, which is evidence-based, more structured, and less biased than a legislative hearing, is required under law, 13th Floor Homes’ lawyers argue in their court filings.
On Wednesday, Mayor Michelle Gomez explained to the speakers that public comments would not be part of the public hearing record.
“That is not to stop anyone from speaking. We judicially only have 30 minutes, but seeing that people wish to speak, we will allow everyone to do so.”
She asked everyone to be respectful of one another’s opinions while discussing the heated matter and pointed out that the commission cannot respond to anything the residents say about the Woodlands.
“It is not out of disrespect, but we are all aware of the lawsuit. We will not be making any comments from the dais,” Gomez said.
Public comments took on confrontational air at times, with residents protesting the new development and questioning the credibility of the people in support of the 13th Floor.
Resident Anthea Pennat suggested pooling the money and efforts of homeowners to pay for the new entrance and recreation hall – items 13th Floor included in the plans. She added that Mayor Gomez was responsible for cultivating the relationship between the city and the developer, protecting them instead of the residents.
“We cannot depend on this mayor and her love for the 13th Floor. I am looking forward to the day when we can vote you out because I think you’ve been in bed with them,” said Pennat to audible gasps in the room.
City Attorney John Herrin interjected and said that while the residents’ passion about the matter is understandable, they still must speak with respect or face being removed from the meeting.
Woodlands resident Chris Hodgkins said the lack of a site plan added to distrust towards the company.
“Their actions concern us because this is who we are going to have to deal with for the next eight years, with the chaos of construction, arsenic, and 400 cookie-cutter homes. People are not who they are going to be. They are who they are now. And they cannot be trusted,” said Hodgkins.
Residents in favor of the project said they are looking for a better community with playgrounds, walking trails, and social life. They also pointed out that defenders of the Woodlands do not have an alternative plan, nor do they own the golf course or are in a position to bring it back to life.
Ed Brown, a resident for over 30 years, said the golf course is done because no one will buy it to operate and make money.
“[The ] Woodlands is the most beautiful community, but it is falling apart. If not this 13th Floor offer, which I deem to be decent and good for the long term – where do we go?” he asked.
The hearing on the 13th floor motion for temporary adjunctive relief is scheduled on Zoom for Thursday, Nov. 18, at 10 a.m. before Circuit Court Judge Keathan Frink. After the hearing, the land use amendment, rezoning, and development plan may be re-noticed for a public hearing at a future date.
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- Agrippina Fadel grew up in Siberia and received her master's in journalism from Tyumen State University. Agrippina is also a writer and editor at Draftsy.net. She has been a US resident for over ten years and speaks English and Russian.
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