All is quiet at the Pebble Creek Golf Club (PCGC), which closed for good on July 31. So, what’s next?
PCGC owner Bill Place had all but finalized a deal to sell the roughly 150 acres of land the course sits on to Pulte Homes, which had plans to build 230-240 homes on the property, but told the Neighborhood News last week that the company had changed its mind.
“I think they are a bit scared of the publicity that will come with this,” Place said.
Another builder, KB Home, also appears to have removed itself from consideration to redevelop PCGC.
Place is still talking to other builders.
Place is also still awaiting the results of environmental testing on the course, which was found to have high levels of arsenic and dieldrin from insecticide applications (from before he owned the property, Place says). He says the results have been sent to the Environmental Protection Commission and directions on how to remediate the soil so the land can be developed is forthcoming.
The cost is expected to be somewhere between $1 million-$3 million, but Place says a $3-million price tag would be out of the question.
And, that’s where the fight begins.
Leslie Green has lived on the 10th hole at PCGC for nearly 30 years, in one of roughly 130 (of the 1,400 total in Pebble Creek) homes physically located on the golf course.
She created the “Save Pebble Creek” Facebook page in March 2019, and is leading the charge to convince the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners to deny any developer the rezoning it will require to build over the golf course..
Green is against building additional homes on the golf course site for a number of reasons — including the environmental impacts, flooding issues, the loss of green space and how new homes would affect an area she says is already densely populated.
She also is skeptical of many of Place’s claims. She thinks a rezoning could lead to far more than just 240 homes, doesn’t feel Place was losing as much money on the golf course as he claimed (while sabotaging it with negative portrayals) and did little in the way of improvements the past few years.
“When you’re constantly threatening to close the course, people are going to stop coming,” she says.
Green, who live-streamed on Facebook on July 31, the final day the golf club was open, also was a vocal critic when Place tried to get a brownfield designation for the course, which would have provided him with a tax credit that could have covered three-fourths of the remediation costs.
She was emboldened by the successful efforts of the community to defeat the brownfield designation. And, she thinks it can happen again.
“We didn’t just start Save Pebble Creek, we’ve been working together on this for two years,” Green says. “We have a strong community.”
Mike Jacobson, the homeowners association president for more than 1,000 of the 1,400 homes in Pebble Creek, is taking a more measured approach. Like most residents in Pebble Creek, he prefers a golf course over homes. But, he says that the choice isn’t between a golf course or new homes, but rather between an abandoned golf course and new homes.
Jacobson is mostly concerned with the worst-case scenario, and has to look no further than Plant City. In 2013, Walden Lake homeowners recommended denying rezoning of its struggling golf course for development.
Instead, the course shut down, the owner went into foreclosure and the formerly lush green fairways became overgrown with weeds and foliage. The two-story clubhouse became a haven for trespassers. Home values in Walden Lake took a big hit.
“That is my biggest fear,” Jacobson says.
There are now, seven wasted years later, plans to build homes and a “city center” on the long-dormant Walden Lakes course.
While making it clear that he is opposed to development on the golf course site, Jacobson had met with Pulte representatives before their retreat about the benefits of redevelopment.
At the end of the day, he says, it comes down to what is best for Pebble Creek’s homeowners, and the value of their properties.
“We are trying to find what is strategically the best outcome for all of Pebble Creek and, quite frankly, there’s no great outcome,” he says. “The best outcome is to find a buyer who wants to operate it as a golf course. If there’s anybody out there that wants to operate it as a golf course, I’d love for them to reach out to me….we would fight to the end with the commissioners to say we have somebody who wants to operate it the way it’s been zoned and keep it as a golf course.”
He says, however, that to date, no one has done so.
While engineers for a new developer could soon begin forging plans, the fight picks up when the rezoning request reaches the Hillsborough County Commission, possibly in 4-6 months.
“Any full rezoning boils down to the vote of the County Commission,” Place says. “And you can’t predict that with full accuracy. I expect there to be opposition, and I understand that it will be contentious.”
Here’s some photos from the last day of the golf club.