Members of the Save Saddlebrook Coalition urged the Pasco County Planning Commission this week to require the new owner of the resort to cut back on the density, improve the appearance and give more proof that promised redevelopment and upgrades of key amenities will happen quickly.
After more than three hours of debate, the planning commissioners unanimously agreed to recommend that the County Commission approve the rezoning, which will reshape the iconic golf and tennis resort in Wesley Chapel. They also asked that some of the residents’ requests be built into that plan before it gets presented next month for final county approval.
The discussions have gone on for months between residents and Mast Capital, which bought the resort and some additional adjacent property in 2022 for $15 million.
Mast’s plan will include redevelopment of the existing driving range on State Road 54 into a mixed-use development that will include commercial space, apartments and townhomes immediately to the west of the Saddlebrook entrance. Another undeveloped parcel east of the entrance will also become townhomes and commercial space.
In total, the project will include 650 multi-family residences, a new driving range, a redesigned 27-hole golf course to replace the current 36-hole course. Plans also call for upgrading the tennis and golf academies, condominiums and other resort amenities.
The changes over 550 acres prompted dozens of community meetings between Mast Capital and interested residents and owners of individual resort units. Larry Barbetta of the Save Saddlebrook Coalition told the planning commission that while he appreciates Mast’s willingness to respond to community requests, there were still a few issues to settle.
One is that the residents still worry that the dense multifamily and commercial area planned for the current site of the driving range is too much development. Stacking hundreds of new residents in multifamily housing there along with the retail components will have a negative effect on Saddlebrook, a place with a reputation for green areas, wildlife and peace, residents have argued.
Growing traffic problems on State Road 54 as other developments have been approved in that area have already affected the community at its current single entrance and exit, residents have said.
Barbetta also said that Mast needs to make stronger commitments to getting planned community improvements done earlier in the development process. And he said resort unit owners are worried about when and how upgrades to those condominiums, many of which are owned by individuals and rented out by the Saddlebrook management, will be accomplished.
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Mast Capital representatives and their local representative, Barbara Wilhite, assured planning commissioners that their plan will accomplish many of the residents’ goals.
Jordan Kornberg, a managing partner with Mast, presented a deed restriction the company had helped to craft that would ensure the new golf course area would remain a golf course and associated uses for 99 years. An early version of the redevelopment had some golf course fronting residences losing their golf course views, riling their owners.
Wilhite said Mast has already spent $5 million on the project, has committed to spending millions more building the new driving range and a new stretch of road to the west of Saddlebrook “before we do anything” with the existing driving range property. She also assured planning commissioners that a new landscaping plan, more promised upgrades inside the resort by an earlier point in the development and other changes recommended before the County Commission hears the rezoning would be done in time.
Wilhite said Mast also wants the new development on that site to be attractive and enhance Saddlebrook’s entrance.
“It is their front door as well,” she said.