NEW PORT RICHEY — Nearly a year after rejecting a proposal to build 230 homes on a defunct golf course, Pasco County officials approved a $2.4 million settlement Tuesday to buy the property and use it to solve flooding problems in the Timber Oaks area.
The settlement, which allows the county to buy 80 acres, is contingent on the Southwest Florida Water Management District funding half the cost of flooding mitigation estimated at between $3 million and $7 million and 20-year assessments on 2,200 residents for whatever isn't publicly funded.
The county also would be able to excavate and sell fill dirt from the site.
The settlement ends a saga that has dragged on for eight years to convert the golf course into homes — a proposal that drew stiff opposition from Timber Oaks residents.
Last year, commissioners denied the developer's request and began mediation.
Concerns over flooding, extra traffic driving across deteriorating roads and housing that would mix young families in an over-55 community were what killed the project.
Developers first announced plans for the holes-to-homes project in 2005. Chuck Kalogianis, a New Port Richey lawyer and developer, got a contract to buy the 78-acre golf course for $2.15 million. He is no longer affiliated with the project, but property owners Pacer LLC moved forward with the plans.
From day one, the proposal got a fight from neighbors in Timber Oaks, a 1,999-home community that meanders from State Road 52 to Jasmine Boulevard, just west of Little Road near Port Richey. Residents expressed concerns that the roads and drainage system in their 30-year-old neighborhood can't support hundreds of new residents.
Perhaps the most pressing problem was flooding. Storms in 2004 overwhelmed Timber Oaks, forcing the neighborhood and county officials to pump water from Footprint Lake to Dollar Lake to keep water out of houses.
Last year, residents showed photos of water several feet high 35 days after Tropical Storm Debby in 2012.
The neighborhood sits at the bottom of a basin, so stormwater from other areas along Little Road drains into the community. During storms, parts of the neighborhood roads and the golf course itself are underwater for days at a time, according to county documents.
The developers tried to turn that into their biggest selling point.
Pacer offered a new plan with oversized drainage ponds, large enough to handle not only the stormwater from new houses but much of the runoff from the surrounding area, their engineers said.
Pacer Golf owner Suzanne Pace, who owns the golf course, gave Timber Oaks homeowners the first opportunity to buy the greens last year. Her asking price: $2.5 million.
The residents refused.