Southeast
Dirk Shadd / Times

FL - Pinellas commission blocks developer’s plan for 273 homes on Tides Golf Club

County officials cited the land’s vulnerability to storm surge and flooding. The Tampa-based developer pledges to sue.

When developer Ron Carpenter’s company bought the 96-acre Tides Golf Club in 2016 for $3.8 million, the options for what he could do with the property were limited.

Pinellas County allows land designated as open space, like the Tides, to be used as golf courses, parks, public recreation facilities or beach access. So in order to build the 273-home gated community overlooking Boca Ciega Bay he proposed three years later, Carpenter needed the county commission to grant a land use change to residential.

The Pinellas County Commission on Tuesday voted unanimously to deny Carpenter’s land use change application to build luxury homes on the property, which sits in the 100-year floodplain and would be inundated by a Category 1 hurricane. Officials cited the proposal’s conflict with the comprehensive plan, the guiding document for all development, which directs homes to be built away from vulnerable areas and discourages converting open space into residential use.

“This proposed project is in no manner, shape or form consistent” with the comprehensive plan, Commissioner Janet Long said.

County officials call their commitment to planning for climate change and preserving open space a matter of policy, but Carpenter is calling it “a textbook case of a taking.”

“The county has now painted me into a corner. They have stripped me of all financially and economically viable options for my property,” Carpenter said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. “The wheels are already in motion and we are moving swiftly to file a claim in federal court. This could be the largest suit in Pinellas County history.”

The battle over the waterfront golf course bordering the 187-acre Boca Ciega Millennium Park is not new.

In 2014, developer Taylor Morrison went under contract to buy the foreclosed property from Wells Fargo under the condition the county would grant a land use change. But after county planning staff recommended denial for the 170-home proposal, the developer walked away from the purchase before the application got to the county commission for a vote.

Carpenter bought the land outright in 2016. When asked about his original intentions, he declined to comment further, citing the pending litigation.

On Tuesday, Carpenter’s attorney Joel Tew argued that the group tried to make the golf course viable. They bought new golf carts, revamped marketing, implemented a happy hour, but still lost $200,000 in 2018, the year they shut the course down, Tew said.

Tew pointed to the county’s comprehensive plan that states residential use is appropriate in areas within the 100-year floodplain only when open space uses “are not feasible.”

Read also: Pinellas ready to put Biden’s climate resiliency funding to good use  St Pete Catalyst

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