The area in red is the former Pebble Creek Golf Club, which will be redeveloped by GL Homes and become home to 251 single-family dwellings and other amenities, if property owner Bill Place gets his way. (NN Map: Charmaine George)

GL Homes has officially teed off with its plans to redevelop the Pebble Creek Golf Club (PCGC).

The home builder has filed plans with Hillsborough County to amend the golf course property’s zoning and redevelop the 149 acres following months of meetings with residents — including, most recently, a door-to-door campaign — in their efforts to convince Pebble Creek residents that its plans are best for the community.

Even so, GL Homes faced resistance from a group of homeowners trying to stop them.

Although there are still a handful of steps along the way, including more meetings with the public, a vote on the proposed project by the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners (BCC) could come as soon as July 18.

PCGC owner Bill Place, whose company is Ace Golf, made it clear in a letter to Pebble Creek residents that redevelopment was the only choice.

Bill Place

He wrote to residents in a two-and-a-half-page letter that it would never reopen as a golf course due to the “declining economics” of golf, and that the county would never purchase the property to turn into a park because it doesn’t have the money.  

He said his first choice, and by far the one he felt was best for the community, was the plan submitted by GL Homes to the county. Those plans include a gated, 251-unit single-family detached residential development, with an amenity center and four acres of passive and active park space throughout the development.

He said if that plan is not approved, then residents will be stuck with a “vacant, overgrown, fenced-in property for potentially many years to come (like Walden Lake) and another plan by a lesser builder without the many guarantees and concessions made in GL Homes’ plan.”

Place told residents in the letter that he has solicited input from the community’s two homeowners associations (HOAs) and neighbors, and has agreed to certain requests — such as limiting density to about 250 units (although nearly 600 are allowed), enhancing existing wetlands, adding recreational amenities and also requiring the developer to make any road improvements needed to offset the number of new homes.

Place, who recently had a chain-link fence installed around the golf course due to what he claims is rampant vandalism, also took some shots at the Save Pebble Creek group and others that are opposed to redevelopment. 

“There is a vocal group that would have you believe that a vacant, overgrown, vandalized 150-acre property with a chain-link fence around it is better for your property values than GL Homes’ redevelopment plan,” Place wrote. “And, they would have you believe that, as the owner of the property, I will simply relinquish it to any buyer for a park or revived golf course. I will not, as both are not realistic options. I will simply hold the property for as many years as it takes for the existing entitlements and property rights to be recognized by a governing authority.”

Place said the letter was written to combat what he says is misinformation that has been spread about his intentions.

Before shutting down, PCGC was the oldest golf course in New Tampa, opening in 1967. Place bought the 6,436-yard semi-private golf course in 2005. He has said that since the 2008 recession, he had been unable to make much money from it. When he shut PCGC down for good on July 31, 2021, he said there were only a dozen golf members. 

Place had been seeking buyers for the property before he shuttered it, and at least four other developers had explored purchasing the course before ultimately declining. 

The county staff will examine the GL Homes plan and reply with comments, suggestions and possibly revisions. Jake Cremer, a land-use attorney for Stearns Weaver Miller law, who is representing the developer, said he expects the first hearing will be May 15 before the zoning hearing master, who will listen to both sides and make a recommendation to the BCC.

Cremer says GL Homes has gone above and beyond the normal efforts of developers in trying to bring the existing Pebble Creek community on board with the plans. The home builder is close to wrapping up its door-to-door campaign, with the goal of reaching all 1,350 homes in Pebble Creek.

The larger Pebble Creek HOA represents 1,050 homes and has participated in meetings with GL Homes; the smaller Pebble Creek Village HomeOwners Association (PCV HOA), which represents 303 homes, remains opposed to redevelopment and has declined all meetings.

One of the PCV HOA members, Leslie Green, is the person who started the Save Pebble Creek Facebook page and helped organize a number of protests. Despite the efforts of GL Homes, Green remains unconvinced.

“All the same issues we’ve had from the start are still there,” Green says. “Our quality of life will be impacted. The construction will take three years, the loss of wildlife and green spaces is terrible, and this area just can’t handle any more traffic.”

Green says that most of the residents that she has spoken with are opposed to redevelopment

However, Cremer says GL Homes is not finding that to be the case.

“What we’re finding is that, like a lot of these more controversial projects, there’s a very vocal minority that’s opposed,” Cremer says. “And, there’s a similar number of people that really like the idea. They’re just tired of having 18 months of a defunct golf course in their back yards, with no way to use that or enjoy the property. And then, there’s a lot of people in the middle that have been, from what I understand, very, very open to talking and haven’t necessarily made their minds up yet.”

Pebble Creek was zoned PD (Planned Development), and the 149 acres in question was zoned as a golf course. The developers will try and get that designation removed.

The county’s current comprehensive plan, established in 1989, classifies the Pebble Creek property in the RES-4 Future Land category, which caps development at a maximum of four homes per acre, meaning that as many as 600 homes would be permitted. GL Homes, as one of its concessions to current residents, it says, only intends to build 251, or less than half of that total.

Place still has a soil issue to contend with as the redevelopment process plays out. Contaminants were discovered in the golf course’s soil in 2019, and Place says he recently received approval from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to submit a cleanup plan. He expects that plan to be submitted in roughly 30 days, with six months needed for the cleanup.

“Things are happening,” Place says. “I think we are taking steps in the right direction with all of this.”

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