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Opponents of golf course focus on lights, environment

(ran PC edition of PASCO TIMES)

The golf course and driving range would "set a precedent for commercial development" along Livingston Avenue, says the treasurer of the Lutz Civic Association.

A debate that opened last spring over a golf course closed last Friday over light pollution.

Two dozen people squared off over the proposal, which would create a nine-hole golf course, driving range and pro shop on Newberger Road at Livingston Avenue. Margaret Tusing, the Hillsborough County land use hearing officer who listened to the arguments, must decide within three weeks whether to allow the development.

Generally, golf complexes are allowed in places such as Newberger, which has a mix of farms and homes. But county planners opposed this one because its golf range would operate with lights until 9 p.m. That elevated it to the intensity of a commercial enterprise that would be out of place, said Daniel Santos, a senior planner with the county.

Amid such criticism, the plan has been modified since Lutz golf instructor Beth Kaufman proposed it in April. Her plan now calls for a smaller driving range and fewer lights, and these lights would be on the ground, not on poles. She would fashion the pro shop and equipment shed to look like barns.

Kaufman, along with many of her 11 supporters Friday, stressed that the grassy golf complex would be gentler on the environment than a subdivision, which is the almost-certain alternative.

In that case, argued neighbor Stephen Chapman, "We're looking at basically a complete tearing up of the green space."

As for lights, supporters said those in a subdivision might be brighter than on a golf range.

But opponents disagreed on both counts.

Denise Layne, president of the Lutz Civic Association, said the golf range would consume many times the well water of a subdivision. Having spoken to the next developer in line for the property, Layne predicted the subdivision would consist of only 10 homes. Spread over 35 acres, they would sit on rural-style lots.

The Civic Association has fought frequent battles to maintain some of Livingston's rural character despite the mass of commuters passing through. On Friday, its board members told Tusing that projects such as an illuminated driving range belong on highways such as U.S. 41 and Dale Mabry Highway.

"It would serve to set a precedent for commercial development up and down Livingston," said Carolyn Meeker, the association's treasurer.

Several neighbors, meanwhile, said they would rather see stars than lights.

"There's no way that the lighting will not intrude onto my property," complained Nancy Lopez, who lives on Newberger.

In some new rural developments and even subdivisions, lights are being banned or omitted voluntarily. "It's increasing in frequency and popularity in rural areas," said executive planner Steve Allison.