Venetian Bay developers halt projects after residents push back

Article Courtesy of The Daytona Beach News-Journal

By Allison Shirk    

Published November 17, 2016


The developer of the Venetian Bay residential community in New Smyrna Beach is putting some large-scale plans on hold that would've remove sections of the golf course after receiving criticism from residents the past few days.

Geosam Capital, the Canadian developer of the largest master-planned community in New Smyrna, submitted plans to the city in early October to build 38 new single-family residential lots on the existing driving range at the Venetian Bay Golf Club, which includes an 18-hole championship course that is the main draw for many people looking to buy homes in the area. There were also plans submitted to the city for nine single-family residential lots in the Portofino Estates neighborhood of Venetian Bay.

Residents began expressing anger and concern on social media after the annual Homeowners Association meeting Wednesday night when they learned of the plans for the first time. Geosam scheduled a meeting from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday at the golf course clubhouse for residents who wanted to give their opinions about the plans, but on Friday afternoon Geosam officials said they would be tabling the two projects for now.

"We are going to take a step back on these two applications," said James Stowers, Geosam's U.S. general counsel, over the phone. "We are still having the meeting. I think it’s important to have all the concerns from the residents, but I think it’s important to let them know and put at ease some of the misinformation."

Some residents expressed concern about the new homes in Portofino Estates blocking the golf course views of those already living along the course and others were concerned the driving range would be eliminated and property values could decrease. Sabine Astroph lives right around the corner from the golf course and works at the clubhouse.

"I think it will impact everything negatively," Astroph said Friday. "I feel like they are just using the golf course as a way to swell homes. It’s a golfing community, but what happens if they are just going to get rid of the golf course?"

The submitted plans included eliminating the driving range and sections of a fairway, but Astroph believes that's just the first step to removing more of it later down the road. For her, the community is already overcrowded and she doesn't believe there needs to be any more homes.

The community — west of Interstate 95, between State Road 44 and Pioneer Trail — was approved in the early 2000s for 2,063 homes on 1,425 acres. This past summer, Geosam also spent $8.5 million buying 700 acres at the northwest corner of Airport Road and State Road 44. The property is the site of a new section to Venetian Bay that will be called The Palms of Venetian Bay. Located at the community's south entrance, it could accommodate up to 1,000 new homes.

Carrie Stepp lives in the Portofino Estates area and said she has been following the new projects since they were submitted to the city in October. She said that the developers have been "aggressive" about following through on them, and it doesn't alleviate her concerns to know they are holding back on them at the moment.

Stepp said she has been reaching out to the developers, other residents and city commission members in the past month to try and stop them from moving forward.

"They go back and forth, and they tell people one thing and then do another," she said on the phone. "Why are they even proposing plans like this and why are they even trying to grab at whatever they can in Venetian Bay when they’ve got these other projects that they can build from the ground up?"

Geosam's new submitted plans also included constructing a new roadway and including a sanitary lift station as well as expanded stormwater management facilities.

Stowers said he wants to be clear that the projects do not remove or redirect any holes on the course, and no homeowners' views would be obstructed with the addition of new homes. He said that if Geosam ever revisits the plans in the future then the company will be "proactive" and speak with residents first before moving forward with the city.

"We’ve heard loud and clear from residents," he said. "Our focus is having open communications and listening to all the residents and all their thoughts and concerns."