LAKEWOOD RANCH — Residents in at least four Lakewood Ranch communities are petitioning the new miniature golf facility proposed for Lakewood Ranch Main Street.
Residents say the course will mar the view for those with waterfront homes, increase noise, cause light pollution and cause parking congestion. They also say the facility is a major departure from the original Main Street concept, which has been compared to St. Armands Circle in Sarasota.
“We think it’s going to affect our quality of life and (home) values,” said Robert Lowery, president of the Lofts on Main Condominium Association.
However, Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty President Brian Kennelly said the project is keeping with Lakewood Ranch standards, and his company already has addressed many of the residents’ concerns, particularly regarding aesthetics.
Petitions against the course are not formally due until March 31, but already, there are more than 40 signatures from the Edgewater community alone.
In a statement on behalf of homeowners from the Moorings, the Lofts on Main, Edgewater, Watercrest and the Lakewood Ranch Golf & Country Club who attended a March 18 homeowners association meeting, Lowery wrote: “The intended design and location of the proposed Fish Hole miniature golf course on the shore of Lake Uihlein is an intrusion on the established character of Main Street and the surrounding homes.”
Residents there agreed the project would be an eyesore for property owners with its 30-foot tall ice house and water tower structures, among other issues.
“This is unlike any other structure in Lakewood Ranch,” said Sheilah Hillman, who was appointed as spokesperson for the Moorings Condominium Association. “Main Street was to be high-end shops and dining.”
Edgewater resident Jim Crouse, who also has a home for sale in the Moorings, said he is most concerned with lighting and noise abatement, as one of the restaurants already has a lot of noise coming from the patio at night.
“If the design is what we see out on Anna Maria Island, it doesn’t fit the Main Street venue,” he said. “I am concerned. I don’t know if that’s a valid concern. It’s hard to tell what it’s going to look like from our side of the water. If it looks like the pictures I’ve seen, it’s just not a real good thing.”
Plus, Lowery said opposition to the golf course itself is a piece of a larger picture — the decision to convert Main Street into a “family-oriented entertainment and retail destination” rather than the high-end shopping and dining venue originally proposed to residents.
“What attracted us to Lakewood Ranch is it’s a high-class place,” Lowery said. “That’s why I invested here. I think locating this in this part of Lakewood Ranch detracts from the upscale vision that I thought Lakewood Ranch was supposed to be.”
Hillman and Lowery both agree many in Lakewood Ranch may see the golf course as a community asset. But that, they said, does not change the impact it will have on neighboring residences.
Lowery said he plans to invite SMR representatives, as well as the owner of the golf course, to a meeting on the issue with homeowners at 7 p.m., March 31, at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.
From the landlord
But the project also has garnered a significant amount of support from the community.
“We get hundreds of e-mails, calls and comments about how excited people are about all this activity on Main Street — especially the mini golf,” said Candice McElyea, spokesperson for Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.
Kennelly said the company has been working to make sure the golf course is up to Lakewood Ranch and Main Street standards.
“I don’t believe (people) understand what the project will truly look like,” Kennelly said. “Although there’s an example out on the barrier islands and this project will have some similarities, it’s not a duplicate. The golf course looks more like a botanical garden than a miniature golf course.”
An architectural review committee has been working to ensure the project will blend and has required several changes from the project’s developer, including the deletion of a proposed 30-foot water tower structure. The tallest structure will be 21 feet.
Additionally, the committee has changed the roofing material on the proposed shade structure to match a roofing material already used on Main Street as well as required black metal fencing around the project to match fencing used in an area between the Fish Hole site and Ed’s Tavern.
“I think the aesthetics and the quality of this, with the extensive landscaping and the structures that are being built, will fit in nicely,” Kennelly said.
Kennelly noted Main Street’s shift toward more entertainment and family-oriented establishments is one dictated by the market. The change, he said, does not take away from the original Main Street concept.
“It’s a mixed-use lifestyle center,” Kennelly said. “By definition, those are designed to provide shopping opportunities, dining opportunities, entertainment opportunities and living opportunities. This provides another entertainment venue. I think it’s very consistent with the concept of a mixed-use center.”
Don Baugh, president of the Lakewood Ranch Main Street Merchants Association, said business owners on Main Street have heard for years that the shopping plaza needs more offerings for families, and the group supports SMR’s decision.
“You have overwhelmingly more people that do like it and want it,” he said. “We hear it all the time.”
Greenbrook resident Erin McGinty is one of them. With two small children, she said she’s always looking for things for her family to do.
“I just think it will make Main Street that much better,” she said. “We really don’t find there’s a lot of activities in Lakewood Ranch for the amount of families there. I do find it would be a positive contribution to the community.”
And although the miniature golf course facility may provide more entertainment on Main Street, ultimately Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty sees it as a temporary use for the project, Kennelly said. Eventually, a more permanent establishment may be constructed.
“We do have a 10-year ground lease in place with the operator, but we have an opportunity to terminate that lease after five years in the event we wanted to construct another building to use as a restaurant (or something else there). This allows us the flexibility to adjust to the market.”
The Fish Hole is slated to open by the Fourth of July weekend.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].