|By Jennifer Sorentrue, The Palm Beach
Post, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 19, 2013--WEST PALM BEACH -- City commissioners tentatively agreed Monday to turn a golf course in the Lands of the President community off Congress Avenue into a destination resort with hotel rooms, cottages and a spa.
After nearly four hours of discussion, commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of rezoning 119 acres in the community north of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard and east of Interstate 95 to allow the resort.
The project has been called the largest redevelopment effort within West Palm Beach since CityPlace.
The proposal must now be reviewed by state planners. City commissioners will hold a final public hearing on the plan in about 60 days.
Commissioner Sylvia Moffett cast the sole dissenting vote against the proposal, saying that she was concerned a detailed site plan for the project had not been considered by the commission.
"I still don't understand how we can go forward with this when we don't have any plans in front of us," Moffett said.
Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell said the commission's approval would not allow other kinds of development to be built on the property.
"We have given the guidelines that are very clear that nothing else other than this kind of a project can be built there," Mitchell said.
Palm Tree Golf Management, which owns the community's north golf course, now known as the Patriot Golf Course, has said the greens are no long financially viable.
"We all wish that things were different, that golf was still a very viable use," said Kerry Kilday of the land planning firm Urban Design Kilday Studios, which represents the developer.
Palm Tree plans to turn the failing course into a resort community with a three-story, 250-room hotel, 23 cottages, 100 single-family homes and 200 multi-family homes. The plan also includes a 15,000-square-foot spa and a 20,000-square-foot golf clubhouse.
A standing-room-only crowd of residents from the Lands of the President community packed the commission's chambers for a chance to speak to commissioners. The group appeared evenly split on the proposal, which would rezone Palm Tree's 119 acres to a commercial designation to allow the resort.
In a last-minute change, supported by several residents in Monday's crowd, commissioners agreed to rezone the portion of the project where single-family homes are proposed, to residential. The initial plan called for the land to be zoned commercial.
Supporters of the project argued that the project will help boost property values in the neighborhood and prevent the golf course from decline.
But those opposed contend that the development will bring lights, noise and traffic to the area. They argued the effects will cause home values to plummet, and said they feared the developers would sell the property once the rezoning was finalized.
The neighborhood of condominiums and single-family homes, which lies north of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard and east of Interstate 95 and is home to U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel and Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.
Palm Tree, an investor group led by Hardrives founder George Elmore, paid $11 million for the club and its two golf courses in 2011. After borrowing to renovate the clubhouse and update the Eagle course, the owners sought to redevelop the Patriot course at a time when many courses are struggling.
The West Palm Beach City Commission took the following action Monday:
Fingerprint identification: Agreed to spend $19,960 to purchase 8 wireless fingerprint identification devices to be used by the police department. The money will come from the State Asset Forfeiture Fund.
Historic designation: Added the property known as the Mae C. Rovensky Nurses' Residence, located at 300 Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, to the city's local register of historic places.
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