Although a few had already left by the time this picture was taken, the Save Pebble Creek group, led by Leslie Green (in peach), had more than 50 Pebble Creek residents make the trip to downtown Tampa for a hearing in front of a judge regarding the lawsuit filed by Pebble Creek Golf Club owner Bill Place and his ACE Golf against Green. (Photo provided by Leslie Green)

Although no decision was reached and there was no word as to when Judge Christopher C. Nash of Hillsborough County’s 13th Judicial Circuit Court would render a decision, the ongoing legal battle between defendant Leslie Green of the Save Pebble Creek group and Pebble Creek Golf Club owners Bill Place and his ACE Golf has had its first day in court.

As we reported last issue, Place’s suit says that Green has defamed him and interfered with his ability to sell the shuttered golf course to developer GL Homes, which has filed plans with Hillsborough County to build 251 homes on 149-acre site. Green, who filed a countersuit in May 2022, is now seeking to have Place’s original suit dismissed under Florida’s Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute.

After hearing more than two hours of testimony on both sides of the issue on March 8, Judge Nash said he needed “more time” to consider both sides of the argument, although no timeline was given for the judge to render a decision in the case.

Despite Place’s claims in his lawsuit that Green has engaged in “a campaign of harassment and dissemination of blatant falsehoods,” she said after the hearing, “Everything I’ve said is the truth. It (Place’s lawsuit) is meant to silence me and everyone else who fears being sued as well.”

At our press time, Judge Nash had still not rendered his decision, but Green explained that if he rules in Place’s favor and dismisses Green’s claims that the suit violates the anti-SLAPP statute in Florida, a trial to determine whether or not Green did defame and interfere with Place’s right to sell or develop his property would still have to follow.

However, if the Judge rules in favor of Green and dismisses Place’s lawsuit, the Save Pebble Creek group could continue its efforts to prevent the former golf course from being redeveloped.

“We believe that adding more houses to Pebble Creek will adversely affect our quality of life,” Green said.

And, despite Place’s claims that those who support Green, a 30-year Pebble Creek resident, and her cause are nothing but a “vocal minority” of Pebble Creek residents, she said, “We literally have had hundreds of our neighbors who have signed our petitions and tell us that they support our efforts, which are continuing. We continue to host peaceful demonstrations and have a lot of people waving signs that we want to save our community.”

She added that Place’s ongoing efforts to stop the Save Pebble Creek group has definitely made it harder for the group to recruit additional people, “But, we’re not giving up. It’s been an expensive fight for me, but I know we’re in the right.”

The group’s website and its Facebook page post updates on its upcoming events and also relates stories of other golf course communities that have successfully fought redevelopment, including Walden Lake Golf Club in Plant City and Bardmoor Golf & Tennis Club in Seminole.

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