ST. PETERSBURG — The voices of environmentalists and homeowners have been heard. Even the gopher tortoise got a say.
The rezoning application filed with the city to make way for 115 new townhomes at the St. Petersburg Country Club next to Boyd Hill Nature Preserve has been withdrawn. The project is on hold but not dead.
"We (withdrew the application) due to (city) staff requests for clarification on several technical aspects, as well as the community's desire to provide additional feedback on project design," said Mike Kiernan, president of the St. Petersburg Country Club. "We are planning to continue conversations with the community and review the project design."
Many residents of the Lakewood Estates neighborhood surrounding the club are against the proposed development because they believe it will ruin their views, impact property values and increase traffic. They grilled representatives of the club and developer Taylor Morrison for 90 minutes at a recent meeting.
At another meeting of the Friends of Boyd Hill, the group unanimously voted against the development. Environmental consultant George Heinrich said the increased traffic and noise the construction and new residents would bring will hurt three already vulnerable inhabitants of the preserve: the gopher tortoise, eastern indigo snake and fox squirrel.
Some residents also started an email campaign to the City Council expressing their concerns. The council must approve vacating right of way of some land for the townhomes to go up on roughly 8 acres along the first three holes of the golf course facing the nature preserve.
"We are still actively working to keep them out of our neighborhood," said Lakewood Estates resident Celeste Nesbitt. There are 25 signs opposing the development dotting yards in the neighborhood. A hundred more have been ordered. "There are a lot more neighbors getting on board who really aren't thrilled about it," Nesbitt said.
The sale of the land is crucial to the financial strength of St. Petersburg Country Club, Kiernan said. It has been behind on paying property taxes and struggled to meet payroll in recent years.
A restructuring of debt, however, has stabilized the short-term situation. But the infusion of cash from selling land to Taylor Morrison would allow the 88-year-old club to make much-needed infrastructure improvements and be more financially stable in the long term.
Katherine Snow Smith can be contacted at [email protected] or (727) 893-8785.