Article Courtesy of The
Tampa Bay Times
By C.T. Bowen
Published May 29, 2016
NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County is going halves on the cost of acquiring the
closed Gulf Harbors golf course west of U.S. 19.
The acquisition, which still faces a neighborhood vote on assessing homeowners
for the rest of the $1.2 million purchase, would preserve 50 acres amid a salt
marsh that attracts rare sandpipers and other migratory waterfowl. It also ends
the threat of the land being turned into single-family homes, a plan that
originally surfaced 13 years ago.
"It does both of those things. It's a good thing,'' said Commissioner Kathryn
Starkey whose district includes the waterfront neighborhood.
The county put the golf course, which shut down several years ago, on its
Environmental Lands Acquisition and Management Program list in 2013, but was
unable to reach agreement on a sale price. A county appraisal put the value at
$600,000, but the seller's appraisal was $1.7 million and the owner's asking
price was $1.2 million.
To seal the deal, members of the Gulf Harbors Civic Association asked for the
joint acquisition. Residents still need to approve a municipal service benefit
unit and its annual assessments to cover half the purchase price and all of the
annual maintenance costs, estimated at $59,400. The assessments are projected to
be $100 annually for five years, but then be reduced to $33 annually after the
$600,000 acquisition cost is retired.
Commissioners unanimously approved the purchase Tuesday afternoon.
"I'm really proud of Gulf Harbors residents for stepping up and paying for it,''
Starkey said before the meeting. "It's the kind of deal that if you don't want
development, and you think (the land) is an asset for your community then you
have to step up to the plate.''
Gulf Harbors is one of the original high-end communities in Pasco County,
developed more than 50 years ago as a dredge-and-fill project that creating
canal-front lots leading to channels and the Gulf of Mexico. The 18-hole golf
course, which dates to 1971, was a so-called executive course that featured
mostly short holes and a par of 60.
Then-owner Marshall "Moe'' Springer signed a $1.5 million contract in 2003 to
sell the course to Lexington Homes, which planned to build 120 houses there. The
county objected, saying the new homes would eliminate the neighborhood's open
space. In 2004, Springer and a daughter, Mary Catherine Hinshaw, withdrew the
rezoning application, saying the course would stay in the family. A year later,
the state Department of Community Affairs yanked its previous approval of the
The county's purchase contract is with Staryn Hinshaw, Marshall Springer's
granddaughter and the sole successor trustee of the Marshall A. Springer and
Mary Margaret Springer Trust. Marshall Springer died in 2009 at the age of 88.
The contract says the MSBU must be created by Aug. 9, and the transaction is
scheduled to close by Sept. 18. Starkey said neighborhood approval shouldn't be
problematic. A May 11 community meeting drew a few hundred residents, and a show
of hands revealed near-unanimous support, according to Starkey and residents in
"We have a choice between a park and a rat-infested field," Gulf Harbors
resident Steve Ekovich told commissioners. "I think a public park makes the most