HUDSON, Fla. -- The Pasco County Board of County Commissioners is expected to discuss amendments to an existing ordinance that address the maintenance of previously developed land that has been allowed to go fallow, which could include golf courses.

  1. Background: The Links Golf Club closed last June. Owner Matt Lowman wrote in a letter posted outside the clubhouse that owners weren't able to complete needed capital improvements and that the Master Association for the Beacon Woods East and Fairway Oaks communities denied his proposal for residents to pay a fee to the golf club in exchange for memberships. The Estates at Beacon Woods Homeowners Association President Jay Cybart said that once the course closed in June, no maintenance was performed on the grounds. Grass and weeds took over, and neighbors expressed concerns about vermin and what the state of the course could mean for property values.
  2. Proposed Amendments: Amendments to an existing ordinance are expected to be introduced at the Feb. 18 Pasco BOCC meeting. The changes are modeled after an ordinance previously adopted by Seminole County. They would apply to previously developed land that has been allowed to go fallow. Violations would include uncultivated vegetation taller than eight inches, the remains or rubble of a structure, and stagnant water. Once code enforcement identifies a violation, the owner would have two weeks to correct the issue. If no action is taken, the county will fix the problem and the cost, plus other penalties, would be assessed as a lien against the lands. "I'm happy. If they can get this mowed when the weeds or grass reaches eight inches in height, that's fine. Would rather see a golf course, but the next best thing for us would be to have it mowed," said Cybart.
  3. Current State of Course: The uncut grass and tall weeds at the former Links course are gone, replaced with rows of saplings. Cybart said they were planted about two weeks ago. "I talked to the owner, and he was going to try to do an agricultural planting, but I don't think that he can actually do an agricultural planting on an MPUD property, where people have built on a golf course with specific retention areas already built in," said Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano. "That's not what we signed up for. We signed up to have a nice, open area, and now we don't have it. You want to have a tree farm, I think a tree farm would be better off someplace that's not by homes," said Cybart. The proposed ordinance amendments state that requirements related to "uncultivated vegetation" wouldn't apply to lands associated with bona fide agricultural uses. "I think it's an attempt at a fix, to make this a farm in a sense," said Cybart. "And figuring, 'Well, now I don't have to mow it because it's a farm.'" Lowman did not respond to a request for comment.
  4. Next Up for the Course: Mariano said he believes a request to use the land for agricultural purposes would have to come before the BOCC, and he doesn't think that's something the commission would support. "I would tell you, knowing this golf course and the strong support the community's got for it, I think it's a very viable golf course. It's unfortunate the owner of this golf course, who actually owns one down the street, and thought his own business would benefit better just shutting one of them down to drive the business over there," he said, referring to the Beacon Woods Golf Club. Mariano said that could involve bringing in someone new to build a partnership with the community and possibly new development to support the golf course.
  5. Next Up for the Amendments: Commissioners are expected to hear a recommendation that a public hearing be set for 1:30 p.m. on March 24 at the West Pasco Government Center.