Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

Weeds, frustration grow at shuttered Land O'Lakes golf community

LAND O'LAKES — On a sunny Sunday afternoon in early August, Plantation Palms Golf Club has two cars in its large parking lot. The 165-acre course is overrun with weeds. The clubhouse, which once boasted a restaurant and golf shop, is locked. The greens are completely empty.

Nine miles away in Wesley Chapel, golfers mill around Lexington Oaks Golf Club, riding on golf carts and teeing off on the course's putting greens.

Two upscale courses in prosperous neighborhoods, yet one fails. What gives?

In 2011, Mitch Osceola, Jayson Ray and Steve McDonald purchased Plantation Palms under the corporate name MJS Golf Group LLC. At one point, the company owed Pasco County $83,000 in back taxes. According to county records, five liens have been filed against the company this year.

After closing the club briefly last August and then re-opening a week later, the property was closed indefinitely in May. In June, the company stopped maintaining the greens. Calls for comment were not returned.

Without regular mowing, the once-scenic course is now a patchy field filled with tall grass. Plantation Palm residents — some who paid extra to live near fairways — are getting frustrated.

Mark Clare, who owns a home with a footpath leading to the golf course, has taken to playing at Lexington Oaks and Eagles Golf Club in Odessa.

It's costing him extra money, he says, because he doesn't want to buy a yearlong membership somewhere else when he lives on a golf course.

"Not being able to play is a real headache," he said. "Watching it devalue is awful."

Rumors are circulating — that businesses have shown interest in purchasing the parcels, that a group of residents hopes to purchase the property themselves, that the previous owners might return and revitalize the property — but nothing has been confirmed.

"Nobody knows anything," said David Gunsteens, president of the neighborhood's homeowners association. "There's nothing happening."

Gunsteens explains a main dilemma: Even though residents are willing to pitch in to restore the course, it's considered trespassing because the course is private property.

The homeowners association has offered to help clean and mow the course, he said, but hasn't received a response from the owners. Residents are asking the HOA to help, but nothing can be done without permission from MJS Golf Group.

"Our hands are tied," he said.

After receiving complaints from residents, Pasco County's code enforcement division issued a warning to MJS Golf Group two weeks ago. The written warning is posted on the front door of the clubhouse.

The notice gave the owners 14 days to clear grass, weeds and undergrowth taller than 12 inches from the property. If the company doesn't comply, county spokesman Doug Tobin said the county will pay for the course to be cleaned up and issue a lien against MJS Golf Group.

County officials said this week they had not received a response from the owners.

The deterioration could have a long-lasting impact. Real estate agents have seen a decrease in property values since the golf course stopped being maintained.

Realtor Linda Leban has a listing in Plantation Palms with a golf course view. The home was listed a few weeks before the golf course closed and Leban has seen interest in it wane as the condition of the course gets worse.

Three potential buyers have passed on the home expressly because of the unsightly course, she said.

Even after adding a pool and dropping the asking price several thousand dollars, the house still hasn't sold.

"We need to have some answers and not have everyone in limbo," she said. "It creates uncertainty that hurts value."

She's also seen irritation from homeowners who expected their homes to sell quickly.

"In the end, it will be purchased and it'll be a golf course," she said. "It's just a matter of time."

Linda Nowicke, another Realtor with listings in the subdivision, echoed Leban's sentiments. Before the golf course closed, selling homes in Plantation Palms kept Nowicke busy.

Now, she isn't receiving any phone calls for the listings she has in the neighborhood.

"I said, 'Well, with any luck, if someone's not a golfer they won't care. Maybe it won't matter so much," she said. "But as it turns out, it does matter."

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