- Lulu Ramadan Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
BOCA RATON — With a looming threat of development on yet another Boca Raton golf course, residents attended a meeting Thursday and emailed city leaders about a proposal to build homes on a small golf course in the city’s northeast end.
Developer Steven Wallace, a Boynton Beach lawyer, presented a plan to build a gated community called Boca Royale. It would have 101 homes surrounding a man-made lake on an unused golf course on Northwest Second Avenue north of Yamato Road.
Formerly Hidden Valley Golf Course, the 55-acre land is surrounded by the Hidden Valley neighborhood, whose residents pleaded with Boca Raton’s Planning and Zoning Board Thursday to reject the project. Traffic problems and the elimination of one of the few open spaces in northeast Boca Raton were among their concerns.
“We absolutely love our backyard. We feel so connected to nature,” Ryann Smith-Danneman, whose home abuts the golf course, wrote in an email. “Let’s keep the little bit of greenspace that Boca has!!!”
Northwest Second Avenue, a heavily-traveled two-lane road, is too congested to handle more cars, neighbors said.
“At peak times, it’s miserable,” said Angelo Gasparri, a Hidden Valley resident. “Something needs to be done about Second Avenue before you consider additional development in that area.”
Building on golf greens is a hot-button topic in Boca Raton, where residents have fought to keep public golf courses open. The city recently sold Boca Raton Municipal Golf Course, on Glades Road west of Florida’s Turnpike, to a home developer for $65 million.
The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District, meanwhile, is buying and renovating a 200-acre course less than a mile from Hidden Valley for $24 million.
A few years ago, the city and the beach and park district, which owns and operates several city parks, tried to buy Hidden Valley Golf Course to transform it into public ball fields. But neighbors also fought that proposal because of light and noise concerns.
Erin Wright, a commissioner with the park district, suggested the city buy Hidden Valley and turn it into a passive park, with open space and walking paths.
“We don’t have a large park in northeast Boca,” Wright said.
Wallace, who has been working on the Boca Royale proposal for two years, said he’d gladly part with the parcel — for the right price.
“Would we sell it to the parks department? Heck yeah,” Wallace said. But both the city and the parks district said they couldn’t afford the land, he said.
The planning board unanimously rejected the proposal. The developer can appeal that decision to the city council.
“You cannot replace public land once it’s gone,” said Kerry Koen, a planning board member.
After hearing more than 20 people speak during Thursday’s meeting, and fielding about a dozen emails from concerns residents, board members said they couldn’t support the project.
“If you want to represent the people, this is a no-brainer,” said member Larry Cellon.