CLEARWATER — Clearwater voters Nov. 3 soundly rejected a bid to transform the Landings Golf Course into a light industrial complex.
Just over 61% of voters (35,464) voted no on a referendum question on whether the city could lease approximately 58 acres of city-owned property across the street from the Clearwater Airpark to Harrod Properties.
The owners of the course currently lease the property from the city for $1,000 a month. City code states that voters must approve the sale of any city-owned property identified as recreation/open space on the comprehensive land use plan.
Therefore, residents would have had to approve the 65-year lease with Harrod Properties, which planned to construct a $120 million, 710,000-square-foot multibuilding industrial center.
City economic development officials say redeveloping the underused golf course into an industrial park would've brought major financial benefits, including generating $9.735 million for the city during its first 10 years and also creating 3,281 jobs with an average salary of about $47,000.
Council member Kathleen Beckman and many neighbors of the project led the charge against it, claiming it wasn't compatible with the area and expressed concerns about traffic and the environmental impact of eliminating the green space.
After hearing numerous complaints from residents of St. Andrews Cove II condominium complex that directly abuts the southwest corner of the golf course, Harrod agreed to construct an 8-acre park that would've acted as a buffer between its project and the complex. The south portion of the golf course was also to remain an aqua driving range.
Those concessions weren't enough, however, for Beckman and a grassroots movement of neighbors who said once the green space was gone, there was no turning back. Beckman also said residents weren't given enough time to make an informed decision.
“Once these 77 acres are gone and they’re not green anymore, they’re gone," Beckman said in June. "There’s not going to be a reversal of this green space.”
Mayor Frank Hibbard, who was the main proponent of the project, said the project did eliminate some green space, but it would also help pay for green space elsewhere and provide many other benefits to citizens.
Hibbard, who was joined by council members Hoyt Hamilton and David Allbritton in supporting the project, said the medical and technological manufacturing jobs the project was to create were sorely needed in order to diversify the city’s economy and workforce, which leans heavily toward hospitality jobs.