GL Homes buying Polo Trace golf course in bid to build in-town


GL Homes, knowing land is scarce, is seeking to build homes on golf courses throughout the county.

GL Homes, known for building houses on large tracts of land, is pressing forward with a strategy to build on in-town parcels, including golf courses. The company’s latest deal: Buying the golf course at Polo Trace Golf and Country Club so it can build new homes in suburban Delray Beach.

Read more stories by Alexandra Clough

GL plans to build between 318 and 320 single-family homes in the gated community, off of Hagen Ranch Rd. and Atlantic Avenue, said Misha Ezratti, president of Sunrise-based GL Homes.

PREVIOUS STORY: The Fountains could sell part of golf course to become new homes

“If you want to remain a builder in South Florida, there’s not enough land, and we have to adapt to smaller pieces of land, in-fill and golf courses in particular,” Ezratti said. “We’re excited about building a little closer than out in the western suburbs.”

The Polo Trace golf course will go away, but Ezratti said GL Homes will build a new recreation facility on a “much grander scale” for the community’s residents. Ezratti wasn’t sure when the project would start construction but said it could take between 18 to 24 months. A source said the golf course is expected to close next May.

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In addition, GL Homes still plans to build 195 single-family homes and about 250 to 300 apartments on parts of a golf course at the Fountains Country Club in suburban Lake Worth. GL Homes is under contract to buy the land for $17 million from the country club.

ALSO: The good life in town: $1 million-plus homes coming to WPB core

A zoning application filed with Palm Beach County for the Fountains project recently was withdrawn by GL Homes. The move was done to give GL Homes more time to resolve some zoning code issues. But both Ezratti and the club’s president said the deal still is on, and the application will be refiled in the future. The Fountains, on the west side of Jog Road, stretches from Lake Worth Road on the north to Lantana Road on the south.

Farther south, GL Homes also is trying to buy the Boca Raton Municipal Golf Course on Glades Road. GL offered $73 million for the course, but GL is competing with two other home builders. The offers are being considered but a decision hasn’t yet been reached.

All of this in-town development hasn’t stopped GL Homes from pursuing large projects. GL has built numerous projects in the Agriculture Reserve, including its newest luxury community, Seven Bridges. But building in the Ag Reserve has grown increasingly difficult. Land is either developed, farmed or in preservation.

GL recently received approval to build a giant development of 3,900 homes on the 4,900-acre Indian Trails Grove tract it owns west of The Acreage. But now GL has proposed a swap to allow it to build in the Ag Reserve and use the Indian Trails property for land preservation.

GL Homes’ strategy to find more in-town pieces of land for housing doesn’t always fit the wishes of nearby residents. This is especially the case with people who bought homes on golf courses expecting to have a perpetual view of greens. Sometimes, conflicts result in lawsuits.

At the Fountains Country Club, for instance, resident Irwin Seeman has sued the club, former president Paul Napieralski and current president Jeffrey Hamburger over the GL deal.

The Palm Beach County Circuit Court lawsuit, filed March 23, alleges club officials committed fraud when they urged members last year to vote for the land sale to GL Homes.

Seeman said details of the GL deal were misrepresented or omitted, including the fact that buyers of GL Homes’ properties in the Fountains would receive many benefits of country club membership without having to pay for them, or could pay for them at “drastically reduced rates” compared to current club rates for members.

The lawsuit also alleged that club members were wrongly told GL Homes wasn’t interested in a different Fountains golf course, the South course, for which GL would have been willing to pay up to $30 million.

The lawsuit said both Napieralski and Hamburger live near the South course “and personally benefited by keeping ‘their’ golf course intact.”

Club President Jeffrey Hamburger declined to comment on the lawsuit. But lawyers for the defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the case.

(GL’s Ezratti said the lawsuit “had no bearing” on its decision to seek more time for its zoning application.)

Hamburger did acknowledge, in general, that golf as a sport is on the decline due to the aging population. This puts pressure on residential communities that must pay for the expensive upkeep of golf courses and club house facilities.

At the Fountains, an 865-acre community of condos and single-family homes, some but not all residents are required to be members of the club. But a number of residents are elderly and can’t physically play golf or afford to keep paying club dues. The club, which numbers about 1,100, aggressively sues members who have stopped paying dues.

In the past, Naperialski said the club sues members who have “illegally” resigned from the club. The rule is a club member can’t resign until he or she finds someone willing to buy the membership, he said.

But mandatory membership is not required at every country club community.

Polo Trace is a non-equity club, meaning membership is not required to play there. But non-mandatory membership is not a guarantee of success. Golfers say Polo Trace, once a well-groomed course, is not in the great shape it once was.

Alexandra Clough writes about the economy, real estate and the law.

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