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Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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Rezoning request would clear way for development of closed Plant City golf course

PLANT CITY — The owner of a shuttered golf course is asking the city to rezone 131 acres for hundreds of homes and an assisted living facility.

Ron Weaver, a Tampa attorney representing Visions Golf LLC, said the property is ideally suited for homes.

“This is one of the most attractive places in Florida,” said Weaver, citing the rolling hills and lakes on the closed course.

According to a rezoning request filed with the city, the proposed development, The Villages of Walden Lake, would include 187 single-family lots on 75 acres, up to 581 multi-family residences on two parcels totaling 48 acres, and a 90- to 120-unit assisted living facility on 10 acres.

Financially strapped Visions Golf last summer closed The Hills, an 18-hole golf course. The company kept open The Lakes, an adjacent 18-hole course in Walden Lake.

Steve Mercer, managing partner for Visions Golf, said the company needs to sell off property so it can afford to refurbish the remaining golf operation.

“We’re actually trying to save golf here,” he said Wednesday.

The city is reviewing the rezoning application, Principal Planner Phillip Scearce said Wednesday. The rezoning would have to be reviewed by the planning board and then sent to city commissioners for a decision. No hearing dates have been set, he said.

Weaver hopes the proposal will reach the city commission in June or July. Development would start six to 12 months after a favorable decision by commissioners, he said.

Weaver said the development would include landscaping to buffer it from surrounding homes.

Mercer said his company will mail information to Walden Lake residents and hold community meetings on its plans.

Mercer said most of the 131 acres proposed for development would come from the closed golf course. However, four holes in The Lakes would be developed, and a portion of the Hills would be reopened, he said.

In the end, Visions Golf plans to offer 18 to 27 holes of golf on a renovated course and build a new clubhouse, Mercer said. The company’s golf courses cover a total of 304 acres in Walden Lake, which is Plant City’s largest development with more than 2,000 homes.

Visions Golf, which filed for bankruptcy protection about two years ago, would have liked to keep all of Walden Lake’s 36 holes open, Mercer said. But there wasn’t enough golf being played for the company to make a profit, he said.

“We tried it and it’s just not feasible,” Mercer said.

Many Walden Lake residents have been upset ever since Visions Golf closed the course and announced plans to develop the land. A spokeswoman for the opposition group couldn’t be reached Wednesday for comment.

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