ST. PETERSBURG — A developer plans to build about 100 townhouses on 8 acres it has under contract with St. Petersburg Country Club, in a deal club officials say is vital for the future.
The homes would abut the golf course and Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. The city first would have to approve a rezoning to allow for multifamily housing in Lakewood Estates and vacate a right of way established decades ago for a road that was never built, according to Philip Lazzara, St. Petersburg zoning official.
"This can only help us in terms of tax revenue and increasing the value of our homes," said Judy Ellis, president of the Lakewood Estates Civic Association. But she said residents are concerned about traffic from the 15-building development.
Ellis doesn't speak for the board as a whole but said she thinks the neighborhood will be open to the development if concerns about traffic and the impact on Boyd Hill are addressed.
Ray Wunderlich, however, says, "It's crazy. It could impact migration, noise pollution, runoff." Wunderlich is a lifetime member of the Friends of Boyd Hill who runs regularly in the nature preserve.
Mike Kiernan, president of the country club, said the developer, Arizona-based Taylor Morrison, will do a lot to minimize the impact on the preserve. "We're really striving to work with the folks at Boyd Hill."
And for the country club, the deal is imperative.
"It allows us to survive. If we don't get this done, we've got real issues," Kiernan said. "Short term (financially) we're okay, but long term, in terms of aging infrastructure, we need this."
Like many golf clubs around the country, the 88-year old St. Petersburg Country Club has lost members and lowered fees in recent years. Membership is growing again, but new members aren't paying as much as former ones on initiation, dues or fees. The club, originally known as Lakewood Country Club, hired a golf management company more than two years ago and has refinanced its debt. It has also struggled to pay property taxes.
Tampa lawyer Ron Weaver, who is working with the developer, said there will be opportunities for residents to express concerns. He hopes to apply for the right of way vacation and rezoning within the next month.
Weaver declined to name the asking price for the acreage under contract.
"We have to do everything we can to make sure that country club stays solid even if you don't know one end of a golf club from the other," Ellis said.
Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or firstname.lastname@example.org.