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Wednesday, Aug 15, 2018
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Developer scales back plan for homes atop former Plant City golf course

PLANT CITY — A plan to build homes on top a shuttered golf course, dividing residents in the city’s largest subdivision, has been scaled back and presented for review with more detail.

Visions Golf LLC, which owns the former golf course The Hills in the Walden Lake subdivision, has submitted revised plans to the city’s Planning and Zoning Department and hopes to get it through the approval process within the next few months.

Visions Managing Partner Steve Mercer said the developers have cut back the proposed number of residential units from 740 to 300, lowered roof lines and clarified that the multi-family feature of the Villages of Walden Lake will contain town homes and duplexes only, no apartments — a major concern among residents.

Opponents of the plans to build over the golf course, including some who paid premium prices for lots on the course, had gathered hundreds of signatures opposing the move. But Mercer said the plans will continue, noting this was not a community-owned course.

A second golf course in the subdivision will remain open and Visions Golf plans to use proceeds from the new construction for a new country club there. Course renovations also are planned.

When the proposal to build over the golf course first went to Plant City, the Hillsborough County Planning Commission and the county’s Environmental Protection Commission, the city staff recommended against it because it lacked detail, said Planning and Zoning Director Mark Hudson.

The revised proposal provides a much more detailed look at plans for the 127 acres, Hudson said.

“Our concerns had been twofold. One, was it could not be determined if it would be compatible or in character with the surrounding neighborhood. Also, we didn’t know if it would impact wetlands on the property,” he said.

Next week, the city will put the plans online while it undergoes a new review by the city and county agencies. They are expected to go before the Planning Board in three to four months.

Carrine Narey, who lives in Walden Lake, said she welcomes new construction to revitalize the aging subdivision.

“They really listened to us and made changes we requested in order for us to support it,” Narey said.

These include moving an adult congregate living center to a portion of the land less visible from the country club, clarifying that no apartments will be built, and larger residential lot sizes, she said.

“Having new development will update and upgrade our community,” Narey said. “We’re getting old, this community, so we need something new.”

Walden Lake, first developed in the 1970s, has about 2,400 homes.

For people living along the former golf course, Mercer said, Visions plans 30- to 40-foot green buffers with the new development and about a third of existing houses will end up on new retention ponds.

“They’ll have plenty of open space,” he said.

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