By Anne Geggis
The drive to fill in the golfing greens at the Woodlands with hundreds of new homes is getting closer to the home stretch.
Changing the development rules to allow nearly 400 homes to sprout on two, 18-hole golf courses is back from state review and is about to land in front of the Broward County Planning Council on Feb. 25.
It promises another clash between developers seeking to wring more value out of 165 acres now lying empty and Woodland residents who oppose the end of a lush, green view they thought would remain in perpetuity.
Developers say this development will give the 50-something-year-old community a much-needed upgrade. And so far, the elected officials at the county and the city have agreed.
But, for this round, those galvanized together to oppose developer 13th Floor’s vision of more homes, closer together on the idle golf greens, will come with a state regulator’s opinion that mirrors their own: There’s already too much traffic on Commercial Boulevard. The road forms the northern boundary of the mammoth homeowners’ association.
Already, 2019 counts show that the stretch of Commercial Boulevard that lies between the turnpike entrance and Rock Island Road is carrying 24 percent more cars than what officials call an acceptable level of service, according to Larry Hymowitz, a planning specialist with the Florida Department of Transportation, District IV.
“The land-use change being considered will further degrade operating conditions along Commercial Boulevard,” Hymowitz wrote, after pointing out that the road is functioning at a failing level during peak commuting hours in the morning and the evening.
It’s something longtime resident Jose Spena has experienced in real-time. And he’s relieved that, at last, an authoritative voice is finally making the same point. He’s among hundreds of residents who have come out to voice their opposition to allowing homes on land that had been designated for recreational use.
“How are you going to fix the problem that people are not going to be able to get out of the community?” he asked, pointing out that it takes four or five light changes to get out of the Woodlands onto Commercial Boulevard as it is now.
The state transportation department comments recommend that the developer make a “proportionate share contribution” to an effort already underway to help alleviate traffic on that road.
Allie Schwartz, spokeswoman for 13th Floor, said that the developer is well aware of Commercial Boulevard’s problems.
“As suggested by the state review, we are continuing to work with the various agencies on improvements and contributions to address existing conditions,” she wrote in an email. “We continue to make our way through the approval process with various local and state agencies and look forward to seeing the plan approved in 2021.”
According to Barbara Blake Boy, executive director of the Broward County Planning Council, state regulators did not identify an issue that could serve as the legal basis of a challenge against the development.
The Feb. 25 hearing in front of the Broward County Planning Council, made up of elected officials from around the county, is expected to be virtual due to social distancing requirements. It will produce a recommendation for action that will then be forwarded to the Broward County Commission to either approve the changes that would allow homes to be built there or reject them. That hearing is expected sometime in April, Blake Boy said.
Next, it goes back to the Tamarac City Commission for a final yea or nay.
If the rules are changed, and the land is cleared to allow homes, the site plan must be approved. The city’s development review committee is currently scrutinizing the site plan. Then the site plan will go to the planning board and then the city commission.
As the drive to develop the golf course has progressed, ClubLink ceased organized golfing on the greens in August.
Opponents believe it’s far from a done deal, however. Lauderhill has not dropped its opposition to the developer’s plan to put new entrances at Northwest 64th Avenue and Northwest 44th Street, which border Lauderhill. Fights about drainage loom. And there’s the ever-present traffic.
“The road is a failure,” said Woodlands resident Christopher Hodgkins. “This road can’t handle any more traffic.”
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