Article Courtesy of The
Tampa Bay Times
Published June 2, 2019
NEW PORT RICHEY — There are no gimmes when it comes to the Gulf Harbors golf
There hasn’t been a round played there in more than a decade, but that doesn’t
mean people aren’t arguing about scores, rules and sandbagging.
Diane Kobernick does a
lot of the arguing. She does so in three-minute bytes to
county commissioners during the public comment portions of
their meetings in the West Pasco Government Center.
“Why are you choosing to deliberately create such discord in
our community?’’ she asked last week.
Kobernick is the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the county.
She is challenging the county’s acquisition of the shuttered
course with the $1.2 million purchase being split among the
county’s environmental lands program and 1,791 Gulf Harbors
neighbors. They would pay a five-year assessment, estimated
at $100 annually, to offset the purchase and then a smaller
fee to maintain the land in a park-like setting.
She contends the county paid an inflated price for what
turned out to be contaminated land. She also doesn't believe
the county followed proper procedures when it established
what’s known as a municipal service benefit unit to assess
the annual fee.
“There is nothing about this deal that’s been above-board,’’
echoed Ken Dabbs of Floramar Terrace.
Kobernick doesn’t believe the county’s score-keeping. The
county sought a vote among Gulf Harbors property owners,
similar to how it does street-paving assessments, to
determine support for the acquisition. The county said a
majority of those who voted approved of the purchase.
Kobernick, who has eight spiral-bound notebooks filled with
copies of the ballots, disputes that.
Some residents in the Gulf Harbors neighborhood are
opposed to paying an annual assessment to turn the neighborhood's
abandoned golf course into a park and preserve. But the president of
the Gulf Harbors Civic Association is one of the people who joined
the lawsuit on behalf of the county.
Her belief is contradicted by an affidavit from Tammy Odierna, program
coordinator for the county’s environmental lands program. Odierna’s initial
score was 552 in favor of the acquisition and 393 against. Then she
invalidated 27 “yes’’ votes, one of which was miscounted and the rest
because they lacked sufficient signatures. Then she tossed out an additional
108 ballots that included written comments. The final tally was 416 in favor
and 393 against, or 51-49 percent.
“This is an inaccurate statement,’’ Kobernick said in an interview.
The case, filed in October 2016, is headed for court-ordered mediation. The
arguments, however, resurfaced last week when Pasco County initially
advertised, then cancelled, a public hearing on adopting a revised version
of the special taxing district.
Kobernick’s husband, Mitchell, dissected the proposed tax district ordinance
on a web site for Gulf Harbors United, a group of residents supporting
Kobernick’s lawsuit. Pasco put out its own information under a
frequently-asked-questions format on the county web site.
The purchase has not closed. Under the contract terms, it will not be
finalized until the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is
satisfied that contamination from golf course chemicals needs no additional
remediation. The sellers are on the hook for any clean-up costs, the county
That had been one of Kobernick’s leading concerns. She said she started the
lawsuit fearing the assessment would turn into an open-ended checkbook for
the county to tap for remediation.
Not everyone shares her objections. Nine residents joined the lawsuit as
intervenors on behalf of the county. The group included Arthur Haedike,
president of the Gulf Harbors Civic Association.
“I think the benefits for the community are awesome. There is not a park
anywhere close to us,’’ said Haedike.
Gulf Harbors was one of the original high-end communities in Pasco County,
developed more than 50 years ago as a dredge-and-fill project creating
canal-front lots leading to channels and the Gulf of Mexico. The 18-hole
golf course, which opened in 1971, was a so-called executive course that
featured mostly short holes and a par of 60.
By 2003, however, the course faced a potentially different future as
Lexington Homes sought to build townhomes there, The plan failed to pass
muster with county commissioners.
A county acquisition removes the threat of future residential development.
The idea now is for the county’s environmental lands program to preserve 25
acres of salt marsh that attracts rare sandpipers and other migratory
waterfowl. The remaining 25 acres would be turned into a passive park,
potentially featuring a trail, dog-walking area and picnic site.
Haedike said he hoped a “friends of the park organization’’ could form to
coordinate fundraising and add amenities.
“We’re out here, too, and this really affects us,’’ said Haedike. “There’s a
lot of people out here who want the park.’’