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Neighbors prefer golf course

Published June 13, 2007


EAST LAKE - Homeowners near the Tarpon Woods Golf Course agree that flooding is a big problem, but they're leery of the remedy Pinellas County officials have proposed.

Now the county's idea of buying the Tarpon Woods Golf Course and using it to hold stormwater runoff has neighbors organizing against the plan.

"They still don't have a solution, " said Phil Hamilton, a Toni Woods resident who has complained to the county about flooding. "This isn't any better than anything else they've come up with."

Hamilton and others will meet Thursday to discuss the county's plan, which depends on the county winning a state grant for the purchase.

First and foremost, residents say their property values would suffer if the county purchased the golf course.

Another fear is that if the county does buy the golf course, it would convert the 150-acre property into a park that could be fenced in like nearby parks such as A.L. Anderson and John Chesnut Sr. parks.

"We don't want to lose our golf course, " said Hamilton, 70, a former public works engineer. "And we don't want to be fenced out."

The community's fears began last month after Pinellas County commissioners approved applying for a state grant that, if received, would generate almost $2-million toward the purchase of the golf course. The 18-hole course is valued at $4-million, according to a current appraisal.

The owners of the golf course, Rebecca and Greg McClimans, have indicated their willingness to sell, but they call the county's $4-million figure a joke.

Both sides confirm that a figure of $7-million has come up.

"We had a discussion, and I've told them a price, " Greg McClimans said. "But if they don't come to that price, I'm not interested in selling."

The price tag isn't the only uncertainty surrounding the project.

County engineers say if the golf course is purchased, they may flatten a portion of it and replant it with native plants so that the land can absorb more runoff from surrounding neighborhoods.

In the grant application presented to the state, county officials also outlined potential recreational uses for the area, including a community center, picnic pavilion, wildlife tower and fishing pier.

So it's not clear what exactly would happen to the land.

"It's too early to tell exactly what will happen to the golf course - or if anything will happen, " Assistant County Administrator Pete Yauch said. "We have an unknown as far as how much land will be necessary for storm water improvements."

The county has hired an engineer to study the course and make recommendations as to how the space can be used to solve flooding, which can reach depths of 3 feet in some spots during the rainy season.

The study is expected to be complete in the next few months, Yauch said.

In the meantime, the county's Public Works Department will send letters to residents of Tarpon Woods outlining the county's potential plans. Once the engineer's study is complete, the county plans to hold a public forum to hear from residents.

But many don't want to wait that long to sound off on the issue.

At Thursday's community meeting, residents will be able to voice their concerns and hear from other residents who fear losing the course, Hamilton said.

"Its not clear whether a consensus of people want to change the use of the property, " said Arthur Davis, 65, a retired judge who lives in the Tanglewood area and whose home abuts the golf course. "There's a lot of dispute concerning remedies.".

If you go

Residents meeting

What: East Lake residents will meet to discuss a county proposal to buy the Tarpon Woods Golf Course and use it for flood control.

Where: East Lake Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 2801 East Lake Road.

When: 7 p.m. Thursday.

For information: Call Phil Hamilton at (727) 772-9466.

[Last modified June 12, 2007, 21:37:40]

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