County staff educated the property owners on the process required to submit a land use action regarding the golf course. The ordinance requires an applicant to submit an “Intent to Convert a Golf Course” application to the county prior to the rezone application being submitted.
Collier County, Fla. is asking a judge to toss a lawsuit brought against the county over the potential use of an East Naples golf course for more homes, the Naples Daily News reported. The owners of the 94-acre Riviera Golf Course sued the county in December over the requirements that have to be met before a golf course can apply for a rezoning, arguing many of the requirements are “egregious and confiscatory.”
But the county, in a motion to dismiss filed last month, argued that the property owners, La Minnesota Riviera LLC, are fundamentally misunderstanding the county’s ordinance and that there has been no action by the county that could be challenged by a lawsuit, the Daily News reported. A hearing on the motion to dismiss is set for March 23 in Collier Circuit Court.
County staff educated the property owners on the process required to submit a land use action regarding the golf course, the Daily News reported. The ordinance, the motion continues, requires an applicant to submit an “Intent to Convert a Golf Course” application to the county prior to the rezone application being submitted.
The purpose of the “Intent to Convert” application is to “assess and mitigate the impact of golf course conversion on real property by requiring outreach with stakeholders … to ensure compatibility with the existing land uses,” according to the motion.
To date, the motion continues, the golf course owner has neither submitted an Intent to Convert application nor a rezone application, the Daily News reported. “As a result, there can be no action by the County for the Plaintiff to challenge in a lawsuit,” lawyers for the county wrote.
Even though the golf course owner alleges that the county’s rules have “eliminated all economic value” of the property and “rendered it worthless,” the motion argues that the land development code provision has not been applied to the golf course conversion process, the Daily News reported.
“The County has never been given an opportunity to reach a decision,” lawyers for the county wrote.
La Minnesota Riviera LLC, said in its December complaint that the “only viable business plan” for the property is to convert it “to a more productive land use,” which “would most likely be residential.”
But the problem, the complaint argues, are the requirements the owner of a golf course has to meet in order to apply for a golf course rezoning, the Daily News reported. In the complaint, lawyers for the company write that the county’s rules would require the dedication of about 4 miles of a 100-foot-wide conservation area and the planting of about 1,000 canopy trees “just so the owner may be granted the privilege of being allowed to apply to Collier County for a rezoning.”
The complaint alleges that the ordinance puts the property owner in “a classic Catch-22 situation,” the Daily News reported. On the one hand, it “cannot economically survive if it remains as an operational golf course.”
On the other hand, the complaint argues, the land that has to be set aside in a conservation easement will reduce “the useful amount of land on the site to such an extent” that any potential future development on the remaining land will be “impracticable and economically useless.”
Ken Oertel, a Tallahassee-based attorney, representing the company in the lawsuit, said the motion filed by the county is “pretty typical.”
“We’ll see what the court has to say,” he told the Daily News.
Residents of nearby Riviera Golf Estates, a 55-and-over community of 690 homes near the golf course, have been watching the lawsuit closely, the Daily News reported. They worry that development on the golf course would depress their property values, lead to flooding issues and be incompatible with the existing communities, among other things.
“We’re concerned about the real impact on real estate values for the community,” said Alan Carpenter, Vice President of the homeowners association’s Board of Directors. “And it’s in the, potentially, in the millions of dollars, because of the potential risk of flooding and loss of what is green space today.”
If homes are built on elevated ground on the golf course, the worry is that could lead to flooding in Riviera Golf Estates, the Daily News reported.
Carpenter said the HOA leaders think it is “probable” the golf course owner’s suit will be dismissed, the Daily News reported.
“However, we continue to keep our options open in terms of joining this action should it continue, because we have a real vested interest in property values in our homes,” he said.
But Carpenter and other board members say if the lawsuit is tossed it will only be the beginning, the Daily News reported. They expect the owner to then apply for a conversion from a golf course to another use.
“We’ll be following every step of that process,” he said.
The group has formed a preservation committee that will be evaluating drainage, the basis on which the county may grant the change in zoning, the legal and the environmental perspective, Carpenter told the Daily News.
In late 2018, the community held a vote to buy the golf course for $3 million with an additional $300,000 for estimated due diligence and closing costs with the condition that the golf course be converted to open space, Carpenter told the Daily News.
Of the 686 lots eligible to vote at the time, 408 voted in favor of the purchase and 163 voted against, the Daily News reported. But due to the way the HOA rules are written, Carpenter said, the two-thirds approval requirement in the covenants for land purchases is interpreted to be based on the total number of lots rather than the members who voted, which was 571.
“So, the resolution was defeated despite having 70 percent of the voters in favor of the purchase,” Carpenter wrote in an e-mail.
But since the failed vote, among other things, there is a better understanding now that the golf course is best left as a golf course, Carpenter told the Daily News. HOA leaders are hopeful that both the golf course owners, the homeowners and the county will find a way to keep it as a golf course, he said.
Tell Us What You Think!
You must be logged in to post a comment.