County officials to defunct golf courses: Mow your lawns

Gail Neer says she bought her home because of the view of the Mizner Trail golf course. And now, years later, she finds herself keeping her porch shutters a little bit lower so she doesn’t have to look at the land.

The golf course west of Boca Raton closed in 2005 and is slated to be redeveloped into a residential property — a project that county commissioners approved about four years ago against the wishes of the residents of the Boca Del Mar community.

But the new construction hasn’t happened, and instead of new neighbors, tallgrass and weeds have taken over the abandoned links, greens and fairways.

“I just sometimes pretend that I’m on safari,” Neer said. “I just don’t know what kind of an animal or critter will walk by with the way it is.”

Residents including Neer have complained to the developer and county commissioners about the look of the land.

To their relief, county commissioners last week approved stronger rules that require owners of abandoned or inactive golf courses in suburban Palm Beach County to maintain the properties. Owners now need to contain the weeds and mow the grass to seven inches on the first 25 feet from the property line and to 18 inches on the remainder of the land.

“We wanted to adjust our code to make it more stringent so neighbors don’t have to look at all this massive overgrowth,” said Ramsay Bulkeley, the county’s deputy director of planning, zoning and building.

The county has a database called the Zoning Division Golf Course Conversion Log, which lists about 15 golf courses that are in a variety of stages of redevelopment. As the trend of golf courses losing financial stability continues, developers are tapping the courses for development — finding massive tracts of land that are hard to locate elsewhere.

The new rules apply to golf courses that are abandoned or inactive and haven’t started construction.

Commissioner Steven Abrams said Mizner Trail is what prompted him to ask staff to strengthen the requirements.

“The neighbors at Mizner Trail have been very frustrated about the maintenance,” he said. “It’s pretty bad.”

While the new rules are “better than nothing,” Abrams said, golf course owners could still choose to ignore them and pay a code enforcement fine. Abrams said it isn’t a “cure all.”

The Mizner Trail land is owned by Mizner Trail Golf Club Ltd., according to the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office. Developer Robert Comparato is listed in state business records as the president of Compson Mizner Trail, Inc., which is part of the Mizner Trail company. Comparato’s office said he was not available for comment.

But it appears there might soon be some action at the site — more than a lawn mower. Representatives for the developermet with county officials about two weeks ago and they plan to submit master plan applications in October, said Jon MacGillis, the county’s zoning director. He said he was told a company from California is interested in the property.

Abrams said residents have also complained about the lack of maintenance at the former golf course land near Century Village west of West Palm Beach. Two of the golf courses on the county’s log are The Fountains Country Club and the Boca Raton Municipal Golf Course — on which builder GL Homes is planning residential developments.

But Kevin Ratterree, GL Homes’ vice president, said the new rules aren’t an issue for the company. GL Homes typically starts development pretty immediately after closing, he said.

The new rules also say waste accumulations, yard trash, debris, Brazilian Pepper or uncultivated vegetation that could be a fire hazard have to be removed.

Neer said she wishes the owners had to trim the grass to four inches, and she’s having trouble picturing what the land will look like when the inside of the closed course can be taller than the outside.

Rosemary Nixon moved from her home in Boca Del Mar to Delray Beach after nine years of fighting development at the golf course and wanting the property to be maintained better.

“They finally did something,” Nixon said Tuesday after hearing of the new rules. “I guess that’s an improvement. People were concerned about animals, rats, all kinds of stuff, snakes. And they were also concerned about the possible dangers of fire with tall grass.”

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