Boca Del Mar board votes against plan

to redevelop golf course


Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Rebekah Monson

Published December 21, 2010

A controversial plan to develop a defunct golf course in Boca Del Mar will move forward without the support of the community's homeowners association. 

In 2004, the Boca Del Mar Improvement Association's board of directors voted to support a plan to build townhomes on the former Mizner Trail Golf Course, but last week the board voted 6-1 not to support a new proposal for development from Siemens Group, a Boca Raton developer.

"We're all very surprised that this has come up again, but this time the board listened," said Brian Coleman, a Boca Del Mar resident and member of the Second Coalition Against Mizner Development, a group that opposes development on the course.

Board members did not respond to e-mail and phone calls requesting comment.

In 2006, the County Commission rejected an plan from course owner Dutch Bliss to build 202 townhomes on the course. 

Siemens plans to continue the rezoning process with the new plan despite the board's vote. 

If the County approves the change, the earliest units could be finished would be June 2012, said Justin Siemens of Siemens Group.

Siemens' development is a lower density than the rejected plan, and it makes better use of the property than the vacant course, said Richard Siemens, president of Siemens Group.

"This is a totally different approach in a different time period," he said.

But residents remained concerned about overcrowding, traffic, declining values of existing homes and loss of green space if housing is built on the course, said Rosemary Nixon of the Second Coalition Against Mizner Development.

"The only significant difference that is proposed this time is more units, and they're on every fairway of the golf course," Nixon said. "The developer maintains that it's a lower density, but it impacts more homes and more properties and totally destroys all the green space."

The developers decreased the number of proposed units and moved new homes away from existing buildings, based on input from residents who live around the course, Richard Siemens said.

"When we could make the plan better, we did," he said. "These are our neighbors. We want to be cooperative."

Two public rezoning hearings are scheduled in January.

Siemens Group's contract to buy the golf course from owner Dutch Bliss is contingent on county approval of the project. 

Bliss bought the property in 1998, planning to keep the course open temporarily and then develop the land into housing. He closed the course in 2005, saying that he could not afford to maintain it.

A deed restriction mandating that the land be used as a golf course expires in December 2012, but most residents would prefer the space remain a golf course or be converted into a park, Nixon said.

"They couldn't put another golf course on it for the simple reason that it would cost $6 million to $7 million," said Arnold Levinstein, a 22-year resident of Boca Del Mar whose home overlooks the course. "I would love it, but it would be a losing proposition."

The Seimens Group plan would be better than looking across weedy, fallow land, and a well-maintained development would improve his property value, Levinstein said.

"The reason a lot of us bought there was because of the open space," Coleman said. "To take it away would be wrong."