From greens to Green, the battle over what to do with the former Pebble Creek Golf Club (PCGC) is now headed to the courts.
PCGC owner Bill Place and his company Ace Golf are suing Pebble Creek resident Leslie Green, seeking more than $30,000 in damages for defamation and tortious interference (or interfering with a contractual relationship) as well as attorney’s fees, after Green chased off potential developers, says the suit filed March 28 in Hillsborough Circuit Court.
Green, who has lived along the 10th hole at PCGC for nearly 30 years, has been a vocal critic of Place’s efforts to sell the 54-year-old golf club, which was shuttered back on July 31, 2021.
She started the “Save Pebble Creek” Facebook page in March 2019, leading the opposition against Place’s efforts to secure a so-called brownfield designation to offset the costs of removing pesticides and other chemicals from the property, a requirement before he could sell the 150-acre property for development.
The application was denied after residents banded together to fight it, leaving Place to shoulder costs that he said would be more than $1 million.
Green has posted more than 600 times on the Facebook page, according to the lawsuit.
Place declined to comment on the suit itself.
Green, in a statement released through her lawyers at Stanton I.P. Law, P.A., said, “This is not about who lives on what side of the street, this is about protecting our neighborhood’s quality of life. In my opinion, the proposals that have been presented will drastically change our neighborhood. My neighbors and I have the right to voice our concerns and advocate for the type of neighborhood we can all be proud to live in. This lawsuit does not change my resolve and will not be used to silence my disapproval with the proposed changes.”
No court date has been set, but Green has filed for an extension to respond to the suit until May 10.
The lawsuit alleges that Green’s fight against efforts to develop homes on the course were “personal and selfish motivations on the part of Green and an animosity against Ace Golf and Place,” and she also conducted a mail campaign to reach out to developers, city, county and state officials and others, established a GoFundMe page to pay legal fees for her “personal endeavors,” communicated with the press, engaged in mass mailing letter writing campaigns and contacted developers and officials through multiple phone calls.
All of these efforts are categorized in the lawsuit as the “Green Method.” According to the lawsuit, she “made things personal and pervasive through a campaign of harassment and dissemination of blatant falsehoods through multiple channels.”
Place also says Green made false statements in an effort to publicly shame him by saying he engaged in a “golf course flopping scheme” and intentionally sabotaged the course so he could sell it.
The results, says the lawsuit, were that two developers ended up withdrawing their interest.
In July of 2020, KB Homes, Pulte Homes and several other builders provided bids to redevelop Pebble Creek, and, in June 2021, Place came to terms with Pulte. Place alleges that Green used the “Green Method” to directly contact Pulte Homes and deliver “blatant falsehoods” that led to the builder pulling out in August 2021.
When a bid by KB Homes was then accepted, Green again sent “targeted communications,” according to the suit.
“It worked again,” the lawsuit alleges, as KB Homes also withdrew its bid.
Place told the Neighborhood News last week that he is currently working with another builder, and hopes the rezoning process can begin by the end of the year.
He said the builder, which he did not name, has already presented a preliminary development plan and has met with small focus groups in an effort to convince residents that the project would be a benefit to the area. There are roughly 1,400 homes in Pebble Creek, and 130 of them are on the golf course.
“I completely understand why the people who live on the course are upset,” Place says. “But, for the people that don’t live on the course, most of them are not part of this Leslie Green movement. They are just people out there living their lives who probably never play golf and don’t care about golf. That’s most of the people out there. They are not the ones trying to cause issues. In the long run, those are really the people who will decide things, whether or not we’re allowed to do any development or not.”
Place says he already has the zoning credits for 600 homes, but the plans have always been to build only 260 or so.
“I have to find a use for the property,” he says. “I pay $30,000 a year in property taxes, I pay a guy $50,000 a year just to maintain the property the best we can. I’m not looking for a fight, I’m looking for a solution, and I’m absolutely wanting to work with residents.”