PARKLAND — After residents rallied around plans to build homes and shops on a golf course, they shared a sense of optimism that the City of Parkland could step in to buy the land.
Now city commissioners could meet as early as next week to iron out details, including what the city might pay for part of the missing Heron Bay golf course, a million-dollar neighborhood of homes that spans Parkland and Coral Springs. Any future commercial development would be open to the public off Coral Ridge Drive near the Sawgrass Highway.
“This is not a trade deal for the city to make money,” Parkland Mayor Richard Walker said Tuesday. “This is more of an opportunity to ensure that the City of Parkland and its residents are able to control the future of their city.”
Nearby residents had organized to push for a plan that would lean more towards upscale housing than a dense commercial area. They said they were breathing easier now that Parkland could have the final say, which means “more control over what happens,” said Citizens Against Golf Course Redevelopment board member Neil Bass. who organized to fight against the plans.
In March 2021, the North Springs Improvement District purchased the 223 acres of Heron Bay Golf Course for $32 million. He has already started work on 150 acres for a stormwater management project to prevent flooding.
The remaining land was to be sold for housing, shops and restaurants, part of the current trend in the area to use golf courses for new development projects. Just under 20 golf courses have been or are being redeveloped in Broward and Palm Beach counties over the past five years.
A developer, who had offered to win the contract, had offered to pay $21 million for the land as part of the Heron Bay deal, and the district would have received an additional $14.5 million for the connection to the water. A second developer, who presented a less commercial development plan in favor of housing, offered $32 million for land and $6 million for connection fees to access water.
Colon previously told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that the land offer was just a starting point for negotiations. The water district was originally scheduled to choose a developer for the course on Tuesday, but last Friday canceled its meeting after talks with Parkland officials.
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If the city offered to buy the land, it wouldn’t get a financial break or professional courtesy when it came to paying millions of dollars for a golf course: the North Springs Improvement District expects a payment that will be ” a fair price [that] we would have gotten from a developer after negotiations,” district manager Rod Colon said Tuesday.
Whether Parkland needs to “take a break, we need to have this conversation as a commission,” Walker said.
The government is under no obligation to give land to another government, said Florida Atlantic University real estate economist Ken H. Johnson. In fact, it’s more prudent to seek “as high a return as possible,” Johnson said. “It’s basic economics.”
Walker said he thinks the city has enough money in its reserves to buy the land, and then he might consider giving it to a developer. City officials said Parkland had $30.8 million in its reserve pot; only $10 million of this amount is already committed elsewhere.
“As a commission we have to decide if this is something we are ready to do,” he said. He said the purchase would allow the city to “set the guidelines for what the city is looking for.”
There’s the potential that “we’d get the money back and more” for the purchase.
Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at [email protected] or 954-572-2008. Follow on Twitter @LisaHuriash