SEMINOLE — Some neighbors want to know if the city will agree to block redevelopment of the Tides Golf Club if they agree to annex into Seminole.
It's a deal the city won't make.
Seminole officials say they don't offer special incentives to entice people to come into the city. Property owners who annex in do so because they want to be part of the city. They also get a free membership card to Seminole's recreation center.
"The city's annexation policy . . . does not contemplate offering land use and zoning incentives, or in your case disincentives, as a function of the annexation process," Seminole community development director Mark Ely wrote.
Ely was replying to a letter from CPA Ronald Ronz, secretary of Save the Tides, an organization formed to preserve the golf course at 11832 66th Ave. N, in the unincorporated county abutting the Intracoastal Waterway on the southwestern edge of Seminole.
Although still an active course, the 150-acre tract is bank-owned after Wachovia, now Wells Fargo, foreclosed on it in 2009. There was about $6.8 million owed on the mortgage and other costs when the case concluded in February 2012. The Pinellas County Property Appraiser sets the assessed value at about $1.8 million.
Rumors began flying late last year that Arizona-based developer Taylor Morrison had offered to buy the acreage provided the county agrees to allow homes to be built on the land. One idea would allow Taylor Morrison to build up to 167 single-family homes and townhomes there.
When surveyor's flags appeared on the course, neighbors organized.
Since then, they've bombarded county commissioners with emails and calls opposing any redevelopment of the course. They've started a petition and created a website, savethetides.com.
They're also exploring annexing into the city of Seminole.
"I was directed to you regarding the possibility of some of the communities who oppose the potential rezoning of the Tides Golf Course being annexed into the city of Seminole in exchange for a contractual protection from the rezoning," Ronz wrote.
He added, "We are just organizing community leaders from the various neighborhoods and homeowner associations and are curious as to the nature, extent and timing of the annexation, the timing of any required referendum and what is the real effect to the citizens and homeowners of those communities annexed."
The idea isn't as off the wall as it might sound. Seminole held a referendum in 2003 to annex several neighborhoods, including those surrounding the golf course, which would have been funneled into the city with the residential areas. Ely said Seminole was then proposing to buy the Tides to turn it into a municipal course. That would have protected it from redevelopment. But the referendum failed and the city decided not to buy the course.
The neighborhoods could still annex, Ely said, but an annexation referendum generally takes about four to six months of planning, including reports, legal ads, an ordinance, and coordination for an all-absentee ballot election with the Supervisor of Elections office. And, if the county adopts changes to allow homes to be built before the annexation happened, the city would be forced to honor Pinellas' zoning and other rulings.
It's unclear if neighbors could rush into annexation before the county has a chance to act.
Nicole Lynn of King Engineering in Tampa said her firm is working on developing a proposal and it is uncertain when it might be submitted.
Once it is, the road is a long one because both the land use and zoning have to be changed to allow a residential development on the course. That will take months and includes at least five public hearings before various county boards. It also includes a ruling by the state should the County Commission approve a change.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 895-8450.