Old Heron Bay Golf Course to be developed for retail and homes

PARKLAND – The former Heron Bay golf course, best known as the former home of the Honda Classic tournaments, could be sold to a developer – or even a nearby town – to become a mix of housing and retail, including restaurants.

It caught the attention of neighbors who say the planned construction on the 69.2 acres adjoining their high-end homes isn’t something they’ve ever signed on to – and there had been concerns about how whose contracts would be chosen.

There are people who “paid $1 million, $2 million for their homes and now there’s this question of what’s going to happen to our home values. [with] more traffic and more crime, said Neil Bass, board member of Citizens Against Golf Course Redevelopment, which organized to fight the plans.

A developer was expected to be chosen as soon as June 1, but City of Parkland officials confirmed Friday that they will convene a special commission meeting on June 8 to discuss the possibility of City Hall purchasing the golf course instead. .

“That’s great to hear,” Bass said, when briefed on the development by the Sun Sentinel. “It looks like the city is listening to the residents.”

Still, the land is unlikely to be left vacant. City spokesman Todd DeAngelis said, “Something is going to be there.”

The June 8 discussion will only “discuss the purchase but not what there would be,” he said.

“We’re realistic,” Bass said. “We abandoned for a while the idea that it remains a green space. We think it’s probably overpriced. We just want to make sure that whatever is developed will be acceptable to residents and the least intrusive. »

Heron Bay Golf Course opened in the late 1990s, and the development — which spans both Coral Springs and Parkland — sits off the Sawgrass Highway at Coral Ridge Drive. The community has helped make Parkland a viable, upscale suburb of Broward.

In March 2021, the North Springs Improvement District, the water district that serves the area, purchased the golf course, which had closed in May 2019. The district only wanted 150 acres for a stormwater project in order to avoid flooding, but bought the 223 acres. for $32 million as part of a full package, according to Rod Colon, the district manager.

Now $5 million worth of improvements are underway, including walking trails and possibly a memorial to the victims of the 2018 Parkland High School massacre.

The surplus, he said, is nearly 70 acres which “we never needed to begin with.”

The first plan, to sell to a developer for a mix of office and retail space, fell through because the parties “couldn’t agree on the financial terms,” ​​Colon said.

The water district was scheduled to discuss a new developer on June 1, until Parkland stepped in.

These options are:

  • East Coast Builders: The developer proposed 50 “high-end” homes in a gated community or entertainment venue such as a driving range or Topgolf-like facility that “could provide a smoother transition and less hard feelings about land redevelopment golf,” according to the submission. It also includes a mall called The Medallion Mall in Heron Bay with 675,000 square feet of space and an additional 50,000 square feet for restaurants. Another plot might have 35 to 45 homes or a wedding event center.
  • Toll Brothers: The developer has proposed a project called “Parc at Heron Bay”, which would include 110 homes priced between $1.1 million and $1.5 million, and up to 175,000 square feet of space sale to detail.

A third proposal, by Falcone Group, is not considered a competitor by the decision committee or even the residents; his proposal includes a five-story building with 300 apartments.

Until Friday, the North Springs Improvement District Selection Committee, made up of Colon and two district employees, had recommended East Coast Builders based on initial feedback from the offices of the Coral Springs and Parkland City Managers. .

But Parkland city spokesman DeAngelis said Friday that Parkland is not supporting East Coast Builders and is “monitoring the situation.” Coral Springs City Manager Frank Babinec said Friday “we don’t pick one developer over another.”

Colon said Friday he would prefer Parkland to become the new owner and let them decide what happens there.

“I support it 100%,” he said. “It was really their destiny initially. I think it’s good for the community.

He said he understands the fear of residents who worry about construction adjoining the public side of their gated community.

“We are sensitive to their needs,” but there has to be a balance for the good of everyone in the district, he said. Still, “people are afraid of a mega mall and it’s not going to happen.”

Bob Payton, former Parkland City Manager and member of the North Springs Improvement District Board of Directors, said there would be development: “No resident wants to live looking at a missing golf course.”

The pathways will keep most of an open space “with several thousand square feet of green space between homes” and development, he said. There will be access from the public road, and the development is “the vision [of both] the city [of Parkland] and improvement district.

Still, he said he wanted to make sure what was built there was compatible with the area and wanted more clarity on issues affecting residents, such as traffic capacity, before making a decision.

But locals fought the plans.

“Anyone who bought in the neighborhood, originally there was a golf course and green space, they bought in a dormitory community that had no commercial development in the area,” Robert Tankoos said. , president of Citizens Against Golf Course Redevelopment. . “At the end of the day, they’re concerned about traffic, crime, noise and their home values.”

Says Bass: “Most people” who live in Heron Bay prefer the Toll Brothers’ proposal because “it seems to be the least intrusive, the least obnoxious of the three.”

But he said there’s also a bigger issue: who can build if the improvement district were to be the ones to decide.

“We are very careful who they select,” he said. “It is a deep concern for us. Looks like they give it to their friends and it’s disturbing. … It seems to be at the expense of the inhabitants.

The chosen developer contract was of particular concern to Colon, with public attention focused on previous deals.

The Florida Center for Government Accountability reported earlier in May that in 2017 the Improvement District selected Colon’s company, Intersol LLC, for a $4 million project to build a stormwater pumping station. . Over two years, the company received an ongoing services contract totaling approximately $16 million for everything from installing water pipes to building aquifers and designing wells. Intersol no longer exists, Colon said, and it happened before he became district manager in October 2019 when he was chief operating officer.

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“I stopped taking new contracts when I became district manager,” he said.

East Coast is a former contractor for Colon, but he said that relationship does not disqualify them for the job.

“People asked me about it,” Colon admitted of the Intersol contract. “I went through the competition process. It was something [I was] legally allowed to do. This has been communicated to the auditors.

After much criticism of the district’s contracts on social media, Colon now has a lawsuit underway to try to uncover the identity of someone who previously acted as Margate Town Hall’s watchdog as Ed. Connelly. The poster, which had a following on social media when active on Facebook, publicly questioned the improvement district’s contracts.

In response, Colon sued both “John Doe” and a private investigator in a libel case.

Court records show that the prosecution is ongoing. Colon said his attorneys were in talks with Facebook attorneys to identify the IP address of the computer used to create the Ed Connely account, as well as the phone number. “My reputation means everything to me,” Colon said.

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at [email protected] or 954-572-2008. Follow on Twitter @LisaHuriash

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