Forest Hills Golf Course Sought after for Purchase by Developer
The Forest Oaks golf club west of Lake Worth Beach could be converted to housing by Canada’s biggest homebuilder. But neighbors argue that the land can only be used for recreation.
Mattamy Homes, Canada’s largest homebuilder, is looking to convert a 50-year-old golf course, Forest Oaks, into a 450-unit residential development.
The homebuilder is under contract to buy the golf course west of Lake Worth Beach at Lucerne Lakes from Grillo Golf Management for $15 million. It would be quite a payday for Grillo, who acquired the 79-acre golf course in 2014 for just under $1 million.
The site, in an unincorporated area, is on the south side of Lake Worth Road at Lucerne Lakes Boulevard. Access will be through a traffic light on Lake Worth Road and one future connection to Charleston Street.
But strong opposition from one of the developments at Lucerne Lakes and concerns from the Lake Worth Drainage District (LWDD) could jeopardize the project, which is expected to be acted upon by county officials later this year.
Anne D’Amico, president of the Lucerne Greens Condominium Association, argues that the master plan prevents the golf course from being converted into a residential development. “It is supposed to be recreational forever,” she noted. “A lot of the people who bought here, including myself, believed that nothing would ever be built on the golf course.”
John Jorgenson, a land-use lawyer representing Lucerne Greens, said the issue may have to be litigated. Another issue, he said, will be whether 450 units is too much to put on a 79-acre parcel. Jorgensen said it is also unclear whether the project will need to be approved by the Lucerne Lakes Master Association, which consists of eight sub-developments and the golf course owner.
“We don’t like to do it, and we are concerned about doing it on Lake Worth Road, where there is a flooding problem,” he told The Post. “It could make a bad flooding situation even worse.”
If approved, it would be the latest in a series of golf-course conversions in South Florida.
Palm Beach County, by itself, has seen more than 10 conversions in the past five years. Vacant land is difficult to find. Homebuilders gobble up failing golf courses as soon as an owner puts it up for sale. The Forest Oaks Golf Course is no longer profitable, according to reports submitted to county planners. Grillo has agreed to keep the course open until permits are obtained so that it will not go fallow and become “a nuisance to existing surrounding communities.”
Efforts to obtain comment from Mattamy Homes and Grillo Golf Management were unsuccessful.
Mattamy Homes is proposing to build 350 townhomes and 100 zero-lot line houses. Eleven homes would be set aside for workforce housing, which means they can only be sold to people with low and moderate incomes. The homes are expected to sell for between $250,000 and $450,000.
Preliminary plans call for three swimming pools; one for each of the three residential pods.The applicant is attempting to make every effort to replace golf course views with lake or park views and set back development areas as much as possible, according to documents filed with the county. It will also build buffers to screen the new homes from existing ones.
Mattamy has already adjusted its plans. It originally wanted to build 600 homes that would have included three-story condominiums and cottage homes. But based on concerns from residents, Mattamy agreed to limit heights to two stories and it significantly reduced the number of homes.
D’Amico said even with the reduction, the density is too much for the Lake Worth corridor.
“We may have seven new communities coming along with a Cleveland Clinic and possibly a new high school,” she noted. “This is a real quality-of-life issue. The repercussions are endless.”
Another resident of Lucerne Greens, Kim Smith, said the carefully developed master plan resulted in the surrounding communities developing their “own distinctive character, one that would be destroyed by the closure of the golf course and dense residential development in its place.”
Smith, like D’Amico, argues that approving the development would amount to “a betrayal” to the homeowners who bought homes in Lucerne Lakes.
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