By: Anne Geggis
It took nearly five hours, but the developer who wants to turn the golf greens at the Woodlands into hundreds of new homes sank its first swing in front of county-level development decision-makers.
That approval was the warm-up round before the proposal tees off in front of the Broward County Commission. However, dozens of residents pitched against the plan for new homes like it was the final round.
The Broward County Planning Council voted 10-4 at its Jan. 23 meeting to change the use allowed on two, 18-hole golf courses at the Woodlands so that 423 homes can be built there. Next up, the Broward County Commission will review the change. However, no date has been set. If it gets approved there, it will go for state agencies’ review and then get passed to the Tamarac City Commission for final approval.
The sinking allure of the sport is changing golf courses into swaths of homes around the state and the country, and this is just the latest, the majority of council members agreed. Golf courses in Tamarac, Deerfield, Hollywood, Pompano Beach, and others have all sprouted plans for homes in recent years. Now developer 13th Floor wants to do the same at the Woodlands.
Most on the Planning Council agreed it was inevitable — in spite of the passionate sentiment against it.
“This golf course is going to close,” said Planning Council member Robert Breslau. “I don’t think there is any hope that if this isn’t approved, the [golf course] owner is going to say, ‘Let’s just keep losing money.”
But residents who turned out en masse for the daytime meeting in almost unanimous opposition – all but one Woodland resident – decried the Planning Council approval and vowed to fight on.
“I was incredibly disappointed … all the testimony that was expressed … It didn’t make any difference,” said David Pesch, who has lived in the Woodlands for a year. “The minds were already made up. We need to have a better organized counterpoint.”
Planning Council members, made up of leaders from around the county, listened as 52 speakers were called up to raise objections to the plans for the mammoth association that currently has nearly 900 homes.
All but one Woodlands resident raised objections that ran the gamut from individuals’ allergies to construction dust to traffic. In between, there were burrowing owls, coyotes, drainage, and, overall, the need to preserve the area’s disappearing green space.
“Here we have a fix, and there is nothing broken,” said Ron Coles, a Woodlands resident. “I am very much opposed to changing from recreational to residential [use]. If this council really wants to do us right, it will protect its land and its people. Does Tamarac really want to be a warm Newark, N.J?”
Tamarac Mayor Michele Gomez, who was one of the Planning Council members, was called out for her support of the change in the community where she lives, and some made veiled references to a conflict of interest.
“You have a house here,” said William Goffinet, a resident. “You have been spoiled – you got to enjoy the Woodlands for all these years, and now you are going to sell us out.”
Before Gomez reviewed the proposal for the city, a legal opinion was produced that she would get no special benefit from her votes on the project. Gomez was the first among the council members to offer comments.
“The Woodlands Country Club community was a country club in memory only,” she said, pointing out that only nine residents of the Woodlands are currently members. “It was never a truly successful country club.”
Karen Malkoff stood alone as a Woodlands resident in favor of the proposal. She pointed out that the developer could be worse – Tamarac’s zoning could put as many as 843 homes here if the maximum number allowed were built on this acreage. Or, the golf course could fall into disrepair.
“If not developed by 13th Floor, then who?” she said.