Letter to the editor,
The former Calusa Golf Course has been closed for nine years and sits vacant and inaccessible to the public – a casualty of golf’s decline. In fact, there has been a net decline of nearly 200 U.S. golf courses per year for the last three years and course closings have exceeded openings for 13 straight years.
While Calusa will never be revived as a functioning golf course, the owners of the former golf course envision reactivating the 170-acre site. To do so, a restriction allowing only golf course and ancillary uses – but, not requiring such uses – on the site must be removed by the Miami-Dade County Commission. The County requires that 75% of owners with homes adjacent to the property agree to remove the restriction. As of today, 82% have agreed to that removal.
The former Calusa Golf Course has a history of conflict. Nearly eight years ago, its owners challenged the restriction’s validity in court. A group of homeowners living adjacent to the course – members of the Save Calusa Trust – have actively fought this litigation, which is still ongoing. Throughout the course of this litigation, the trial judge has urged the parties to reach a settlement.
In 2017, the former golf course owners sought a land use change for the property. The Save Calusa Trust opposed this request because the validity of the restriction was still pending in court. County Commissioners responded by encouraging both sides to work things out. They stressed that either party could lose in court and end up with nothing.
After several years of working together, the Save Calusa Trust and the owners of the property reached an agreement that addresses the needs of both parties and only allows a reduced number of detached single-family homes to be built on the former course.
Removal of the restriction will finally end the nearly 8 years of litigation and provide protections related to development impacts and assurances on development limitations.
On March 19, the former golf course owners and adjacent homeowners supporting the release of the restriction will return to the County Commission to request that the restriction be removed.
The message to Commissioners will be straightforward: the restriction in place was written to protect the homeowners whose properties encircle the former golf course. A total of 82% of those adjacent homeowners have approved the removal of the restriction, well exceeding the required 75% threshold. Now it is time to remove the restriction.
After the restriction is removed, the next step would involve the larger community. Only after the owners of the former golf course submit an application to develop their property, will a comprehensive zoning process proceed. At that time, Commissioners, County staff and the community will have the opportunity to evaluate all the details of the proposed development.
Failure to remove the restriction will continue the current uncertainty as to what will be developed in these adjacent homeowners’ backyards. This would effectively disregard years of work by the parties in reaching a compromise on enforceable limitations and mitigation of impacts of future development. Even worse, the parties will be forced to continue litigation that they want to settle. Continued litigation could make it more likely that the owners of the property will eventually be able to develop the former golf course with none of the restrictions, limitations and benefits that the Save Calusa Trust worked so hard to achieve.
The Save Calusa Trust whose members own homes facing this shuttered golf course, will urge County Commissioners to respect the will of the great majority of adjacent homeowners by removing the restriction on the former golf course.