New land uses in SCC engage residents

Published on: August 30, 2012

Howie Griffin, CA director; Sam Sudman, CA director; Robert Visentin, ClubLink president; Ed Barnes, CA president; John Finlayson, ClubLink director of Florida golf operations; Al Alderman, CA director, and Martin Hurwitz, CA director.

Howie Griffin, CA director; Sam Sudman, CA director; Robert Visentin, ClubLink president; Ed Barnes, CA president; John Finlayson, ClubLink director of Florida golf operations; Al Alderman, CA director, and Martin Hurwitz, CA director.


SUN CITY CENTER — Two substantial parcels of open land and their potential uses today top the list of key interests for both Community Association leaders and members here.

One is 5.23 acres sliced from the former driving range of the now-closed North Lakes Golf Course and formally donated to the association last week by ClubLink Corporation, owner of the community’s courses. A new use of the small acreage has not yet been specified.

The second is about 37 acres of raw land in a natural state on the community’s western edge, long a legal but unused part of it and now envisioned as a low impact recreational area for residents.

Months in the making, the golf course donation was formalized August 21 with execution of an agreement by both CA and ClubLink managers that turned over about five and a quarter acres immediately north of the Atrium and fitness center complex on the Central Campus.

ClubLink valued the five-acre parcel at about $100,000, noted Ed Barnes, SCC CA President, as he discussed the transaction following the closing.

The sprawling former golf course, first of seven that eventually would be constructed in the retirement center as it grew to encompass the north and south sides of Sun City Center as well as Kings Point, was closed by former developer WCI Communities several years ago. Acquired as fallow land by ClubLink from WCI as part of a package deal when the former developer was sinking into bankruptcy, the old North Course has remained closed as a recreational facility under ClubLink ownership, its contoured, grassy acreage not yet put to any other uses. More than 400 homes surround the former course.

In exchange for the five-plus acres, CA directors agreed to a few adjustments to the 1984 Agreement, a governing document drafted more than 25 years ago that bound both then and succeeding developers as well as then and subsequent CA leaderships. The contractual arrangement, which has been modified by mutual assent of the parties over the years, provided earlier CA boards with funds through periodic Letters of Credit as well as certain considerations while protecting some developer interests.

Among the recent modifications is relinquishing by the CA of a right of first refusal in connection with any proposed sale of the North Course acreage. Since first proposed months ago, this concession in particular has been opposed by some CA members who have asserted it could place the community – especially the surrounding North Course homeowners – at risk of loss and that the right of refusal has calculable monetary value.

Barnes, however, has pointed out repeatedly that CA members have not been willing to exercise the right in the past and he has consistently maintained that forfeiture of the right in no way precludes a CA purchase offer for the course acreage if it were to be put up for sale by ClubLink.

As for use of the five-plus acres, CA directors are emphasizing this is a question to be answered by the membership. It is hoped that an impartial but extensive survey of CA members currently underway will clarify their priorities, Director Martin Hurwitz said this week, including their recommendations for use of that land.

The CA board turned to a business consultant and University of Tampa marketing research professor last spring to conduct focus groups in the community and then survey the entire membership this summer in order to determine residents’ concepts for the community as its second half century opens. Dr. Erika Matulich’s report based on information obtained entirely outside the purview of the CA leadership is to be presented October 4 during a 7 PM town hall session in Community Hall.

Meanwhile, efforts are continuing in conjunction with the 37-acre parcel west of Del Webb Boulevard West, Hurwitz said. The land, part of the original community master plan and located due west of North Lake, has not been utilized and has not been accessible, partially because of a 20-foot right-of-way strip owned by Hillsborough County, he added. Another consideration is two building lots also in the way of ingress or egress and known as “Tract D.”

Legal ownership of the two lots was clouded when Pulte Homes acquired the Del Webb development interests, after Del Webb, Sun City Center’s first developer, sold remaining portions of the undeveloped community to its second developer, the director noted.

Both obstacles to access, however, are being addressed by attorneys, Hurwitz said, with the county agreeing to provide an easement across the strip it holds and the ownership issue close to being successfully unraveled.

Once verifying documentation is in hand, Hurwitz said construction can begin on a driveway west from Del Webb West into the acreage, opposite a point between Seton Hall and Vincennes Drives. The CA board foresees the site kept in a somewhat natural state but with added walking paths, perhaps designated picnic areas and maybe even an archery range, he added.

However the site is utilized, Hurwitz emphasized the uses would be “low impact.” The intent, he indicated, is creating a residents’ retreat complementary to the West Campus a short distance to the south where the Tillers and Toilers maintain agricultural plots and access is available for the Nature Trail that leads to the Audubon birders’ shelter.

Barring unforeseen complications, he suggested the project could be well underway before end of the year, about the same time residents are making clear their choices for best use of five acres of former golf course.

Copyright 2012 Melody Jameson