MULBERRY, Fla. — Imperial Lakes residents are pushing back on a request to rezone their golf course. 

If the request is approved by Polk County, neighbors fear it would clear the path for more houses to be built.

"It's a shame," Aaron Puffer said. 

Puffer and his wife moved into their retirement home at Imperial Lakes eight months ago, but now they say their dream home is quickly becoming a nightmare. 

"Once the owners of the country club file for the rezoning — Once they get it zoned the way they want it to be zoned, they can sell the property and leave the area. They dont' have to deal with the results," he adds.

The Imperial Lakes Country Club was built in the late 1970's. 

Maintenance of the club has declined, according to residents. 

In addition to concerns about more development, residents fear the wildlife will be displaced. 

"If building on this property were to occur, we don't know what would happen to it," Puffer said. 

Owner John Lennon says, of the 180 acres that he requested to rezone, 40 acres is protected by an animal conservation agreement and can't be touched. 

Lennon says the designated land-use for the rest of the property expired four years ago, and they filed with Polk County to update it. 

An R-1 rezoning is the lowest population density available.

"We're just trying to clear up paperwork that is necessary in the County, and then at some point do something with the property. But it's not going to 400 homes. It's not going to be 6, 9 — It's gonna be much less than that, if at all," he explained. 

Lennon says offers by developers have been put on hold. 

A meeting was held this week to outline plans for the golf course, and more are slated to happen, according to Lennon. 

Lennon says the club was hit hard by the pandemic with multiple country club businesses closing. 

When revenue declined, Lennon says it became more difficult to maintain the club. 

 "We've had north of $100,000 in vandalism in the last two years, and the trespassing that goes on with all the people around here — it just get old," he said.

Puffer says he wants to see the same backyard view that he originally purchased with his home. 

​"This is home," said Puffer. "This is where we live! I don't feel that we need to compromise and move somewhere else because of somebody's poor decisions with their business." 

Lennon says he wants the best outcome for the property and has even offered to sell portions of the land to residents .