Editor: Pinellas County is the most densely populated county in Florida. Our county leaders are currently caught in a struggle between further developing the last vestiges of our county green space or maintaining and protecting what little of it remains.
The Tides Golf Course is a 66-acre golf course located off of 113th Street in Seminole. It is adjacent to Millennium Park and Boca Ciega Bay. The course has been in operation for over 40 years. It is home to varied species of wildlife. It acts as wildlife “spill over” from the park and compliments the entire Seminole and beaches area as a wildlife refuge and manatee sanctuary. The course also serves many tourist visitors who stay on our beaches just 2 miles down the road.
Unfortunately, this land had been targeted for another residential housing project. Taylor Morrison, a residential building company, headquartered in Arizona, previously submitted a contract to purchase the Tides. The contract was contingent upon approval of a re-zoning application to rezone the land from recreational open to residential. Taylor Morrison had submitted a housing development plan to county officials to build 172 houses and townhomes on the 66-acres. Their plan proposed a density of 2.5 units per acre. Recently, county officials suggested against approval of this plan.
About three days ago Taylor Morrison withdrew their re-zoning application.
The current owner of the property is Wells Fargo bank. Wells Fargo acquired the property after the previous owner defaulted on his mortgage in 2009. The previous owner did not default on the mortgage because the golf course was losing money. The previous owner of the golf course simply paid too much for the Tides in 2003, during the real estate bubble. Like so many of our fellow Americans, the Tides owner suffered from the sluggish economy and could not maintain the burden of an overvalued piece of property.Pinellas County property appraisers now value the course at nearly $2 million.
Shortly thereafter, the bank assumed responsibility over the property. Ironically, about the same time the Tides owner defaulted on his obligation, Wells Fargo Bank received $36 billion of your tax dollars to keep the bank from failing.
We were told that the bailout of Wells Fargo and other banks and financial institutions were for our own good. Remember that?
To add insult to injury, about three months ago the New York Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging Wells Fargo violated the terms of the recent multi-state mortgage fraud settlement.
Now as 2014 begins, I am happy that we were able to repel Taylor Morrison’s application. Many of us worked hard and donated thousands of dollars and hours of time in an organized, professional and effective effort to thwart this multi-state developer that is headquartered in the Cayman Islands.
We won this battle, but not the war. With your help, the Save the Tides movement will continue to work with the county to protect this valuable piece of land. We also will continue to remain ever vigilant in its protection.