Boca to sell golf course to home developer for at least $65 million

Boca Raton will sell its municipal golf course west of the city limits for at least $65 million to a developer that aims to build homes in its place, Boca Raton leaders decided Tuesday.

After a lengthy public bidding war, the Boca Raton city council agreed to enter into negotiations with Sunrise-based GL Homes to part with its 194-acre golf course, off Glades Road just west of Florida’s Turnpike.

The details of the deal may change before it comes before the Boca council for final approval on Nov. 14.

Some of the council members said GL Homes’ $65 million offer for the course isn’t high enough.

Councilman Robert Weinroth suggested backing out of the plan to sell the golf course unless GL Homes can offer more money.

“Land will only get more valuable in the future,” Weinroth said.

The city considered bids from two developers: GL Homes and Miami-based Lennar Corp.

Because the city owns the golf course, the bidding had to be conducted publicly.

GL Homes first offered $60 million, with a $4 million non-refundable down payment. During the bidding battle, it raised its offer to $65 million, but lowered the non-refundable down payment to $2 million.

Lennar Corp. bid $73 million with a $100,000 non-refundable down payment. But that deal depended on whether Lennar landed approval to build 480 homes and a 200-bed congregate living facility over the golf course.

The Boca Raton Municipal Golf Course, at 8111 Golf Course Road, is west of the city limits. Any plans would go before the Palm Beach County Commission for approval.

If the city pulled out of the Lennar deal after the contract was signed, the city would have been responsible for paying the developer’s “unlimited” costs, the contract reads.

“That’s putting a lot of risk on us,” Mayor Susan Haynie said.

The council ultimately decided to continue negotiating with GL Homes, whose offer is not dependent on approval by the county.

“GL has proven from day one that their deal was simple and transparent and offered the city a clear and final price of $65 million,” said Neil Schiller, an attorney for GL Homes. “We’re excited to move forward and work with the city to close.”

Discussion of parting with the golf course started over a year ago, when Lennar Corp. sent the city an unsolicited bid for the land.

Lennar proposed a land-exchange deal involving the Ocean Breeze Golf Course in the city’s northeast end.

The Lennar golf course deals were later uncoupled; Lennar is in negotiations with the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District to sell Ocean Breeze outright for $24 million.

Several unsolicited offers to buy the course then trickled in.

Last month, the city narrowed it down to two nearly identical bids from Lennar and GL Homes.

Both developers initially offered $73 million.

Once GL Homes assessed the land, however, it found that it cannot develop at least 21 acres because of restrictions, said Larry Portnoy, a vice president at GL Homes.

“Maybe we were a little overzealous when we offered the $73 (million),” Portnoy said.

GL Homes lowered its bid as a result, which disappointed the city council.

“I don’t see us being close to a deal right now,” Councilman Jeremy Rodgers said.

Real estate experts say land in southern Palm Beach County is scarce, driving up the price tag for homes west of Boca Raton. The developers can make much more than twice what they would spend on the land.

GL Homes, which has built homes throughout central and southern Palm Beach County, originally proposed building more than 500 homes over the golf course.

Once a contract is signed, the developer will assess the land to determine how many homes can be built at the site.

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