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Mini golf splits community

Published May 26, 2006
Updated May 26, 2006

Come January of next year, Pebble Creek could become the home of a brand new miniature golf course, open to families, couples and teens from all over.

And some Pebble Creek homeowners are furious at the thought.

"Believe me, all this Homeowners Association has heard (from residents) is no, no, no to the plans," said Pebble Creek HOA president Tanya Heires. "This is not what people bought when they moved into a tranquil golf community. They wanted peace and quiet."

Some of those opposed to the mini golf course will likely voice their opinions at a June 13 zoning hearing before the Board of County Commissioners, which will determine whether new Pebble Creek Golf Club owner Bill Place can proceed with his plans.

But Place, who owns Ace Golf Centers in Carrollwood, Brandon and Riverview, thinks those opposed are simply misinformed.

He has attended HOA meetings, knocked on doors and held open house viewings at the club to help get the word out. "I did change my original plans based on input from the community and I will make further changes as I go," Place said. "I'm really trying to make this an asset to the community.

Place said he believes a majority of homeowners, including those who will see the mini golf course from their back porch, have no problem with the plans. He said he collected signatures of support from 90 percent of those within 300 feet (including a nearby shopping center and church), and he hopes the "vocal minority" does not overtake the county zoning hearing.

"I've tried to come up with something we can all agree with," Place said. "I think (the opposition) is kind of concentrated with the HOA, unfortunately."

Heires said the biggest fear residents have is not the design or aesthetics of the proposed course, but the type and volume of customers the course will draw to Pebble Creek. With Wharton High across the street and very few options in New Tampa for entertainment, some homeowners are afraid of two things: traffic and teens.

New Tampa's oldest community has had problems with vandalism and other small crimes in the past few years, and Heires fears an influx of outsiders could invite more trouble. While she said the HOA fully supports Place and his plans to improve Pebble Creek's struggling golf course operations, the mini golf course was something the HOA has opposed since he announced his plans last fall.

She also said more people are against the miniature golf plans than Place thinks, and that many of those who signed Place's support petition "didn't know what they were signing." She and other HOA board members have urged neighbors to send letters to the county commissioners before June 13.

Place plans to keep spreading the message that miniature golf is okay, that it could be a lively addition to the community and that it will not attract a bad element.

"I've heard people say if we build this thing, then the teenagers will come," Place said.

"We've run these kinds of courses for 12 years and we don't get bad kids. If anything, we get the opposite."