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East County Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020 2 months ago

Townhouses could come to Legacy Golf Club in Lakewood Ranch

Manatee County Planning Commission recommended approval of plan to develop 48 multi-family units by Legacy Golf Club.
by: Brendan Lavell Staff Writer

Schroeder-Manatee Ranch received unanimous approval from the Manatee County Planning Commission on Thursday to make several changes to its development plan in University Lakes, one of which is the addition of 48 multi-family residential units on five acres of a 15.1-acre parcel of land owned by Legacy Golf Club.

Final approval will be considered by the Board of County Commissioners at a Dec. 10 land use meeting.

Other modifications approved by the Planning Commission include the addition a 16-acre parcel of land at the southeast corner of Lorraine Road and The Masters Avenue to University Lakes’ development of regional impact plan and subsequent rezone from general agriculture to mixed use; the addition of 300 hotel rooms and 100,000 square feet of business commercial land at the northeast corner of I-75 and University Parkway; and plans to add 187 multi-family units at the eastern end of The Masters Avenue adjacent to Bourneside Boulevard.

The land that Legacy Golf Club wants to develop for 48 townhouse or condominium units, expected to be bought largely by people who want to be members of the golf club, is south of the club’s driving range and north of the wetlands at the corner of University and Legacy Boulevard.

Legacy Golf Club part-owner Jon Whittemore would like to develop the land to create supplemental income for the golf course. Whittemore and Kevin Paschall bought the club in November 2015. The seller, ClubCorp, had reluctantly bought Legacy in a package including six other clubs and neglected it to the verge of insolvency, according to Whittemore.

“The reason Schroeder-Manatee is very supportive of it is we have seen in the past that this golf course had some problems,” SMR attorney Caleb Grimes said. “It was not well cared for. It was becoming an eyesore. It was a little bit of an embarrassment to Lakewood Ranch.”

Since then, Whittemore and Paschall have renovated the course’s greens, bunkers, landscape, interior and more. Whittemore said the club is now in a safer place financially, but large expenses are on the horizon. For example, the irrigation system is nearing the end of its lifespan. He estimated it will cost about $1.4 million to replace.

“I’ll admit we are not developers,” Whittemore said. “We are golf guys. But we do recognize there’s an opportunity to assure that the debt we added to the property does not end up serving as an anchor on the asset.”

A few-dozen Country Club residents, however, showed up to Thursday’s meeting to voice their opposition to the development. Perhaps the main concern raised was traffic.

Jordan Shifrin, a retired lawyer and resident of Canterbury in the Country Club, said he represented many of his neighbors. He said traffic by the property backs up to University Parkway every morning between 8 and 9 a.m. and every evening between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. with residents, golfers, service providers and landscapers.

“It really is not a place to do a redevelopment and stick townhouses in there,” Shifrin said. “That was never the intention of the master plan. And it’s just not compatible with our community.”

Some residents worried that Legacy and SMR would eventually come back and ask to develop the rest of the parcel, including the wetlands. However, a stipulation was added to ensure SMR and Legacy build on only five of the 15.1 acres on the parcel. Grimes and Whittemore both said the wetlands would be completely preserved.

Others, such as Quail Creek (in Country Club) resident Toni Ambrosio, are worried about the value of their homes. Among other things, she is concerned the view from her lanai, one of the key features of her property, will no longer be an attraction if the 48 units are built.

“The homes that are facing the golf course in Quail Creek were promised that no one would be able to build because that area is a preserve, and no one can touch a preserve,” Ambrosio said. “We were very happy with that, so we decided to invest the additional money, a very high premium, so that we would have this kind of privacy when we built our home.”

Some residents worried about the development’s effect on the aesthetic beauty of the entrance to the community. Grimes said the development will not be visible until after visitors have entered the community and passed the wetlands.

Grimes and Whittemore said the development will ensure the stability of Legacy Golf Club. In turn, they said living on or near a thriving golf course would be a boon to the value of nearby homes.

“[SMR is] a very big stickler on what goes into Lakewood Ranch,” Grimes said. "These units will give [Legacy] the ability to generate some outside income to put into the golf course and continue to make sure it’s the course everybody wants in LWR.”

Brendan Lavell is a general assignment reporter for the Observer. He earned degrees in journalism and history at the University of Missouri. He has visited 48 of the 50 United States, has a black cat named Arya and roots for the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, 76ers and Chelsea FC.

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