Pinellas County approves contract to buy former golf course

Pinellas County commissioners approved the purchase of the former Baypointe Golf Course for $1.2 million at their Jan. 14 meeting.

CLEARWATER — In a move being touted as a win-win for everyone, Pinellas County commissioners agreed unanimously Jan. 14 to purchase the former Baypointe Golf Course at 9399 Commodore Drive in Seminole.

The county agreed to pay $1.2 million to Obligation Solution LLC in Pembroke Pines. Staff now has 90 days to complete its due diligence before closing. The plan is to turn the 40-acre property into a stormwater park.

In addition to the $1.2 million, the contract calls for the county to satisfy the cost of code enforcement liens, totaling $499,237. The owner will pay past due property taxes at closing. Taxes have not been paid since 2014.

During discussion at a Jan. 9 work session, county administrator Barry Burton said Obligation Solution originally didn’t want to sell to the county for the amount initially offered, but as the seller delayed, fines assessed for neglect of the property continued to go up.

He said Obligation Solutions tried to sell to the owners of the Tides Golf Club, a second now defunct golf course in Seminole. The plan had been to develop Baypointe into a stormwater facility and then sell it back to the county. Burton said the county said no, telling the seller it could develop the land into a stormwater park on its own.

The seller then agreed to the county’s offer. The purchase price will be paid for with money from Penny for Pinellas sales tax collections.

Commissioners questioned the difference in the appraised value of $800,000 versus the purchase price.

Assistant County Administrator Rahim Harji explained that the appraisal only took into consideration the land’s recreational value; however, for the county, there is additional value in creating an efficient way to treat stormwater.

Burton said finding solutions for stormwater treatment had been included when budgeting for Penny for Pinellas III, 2010-2020.

Harji said the space would be maximized for stormwater treatment but the county also would put in trails and other amenities for a passive park. The county’s purchase will preserve the greenspace in the area and a passive park provides a bonus for neighbors who have been fighting against potential development for years.

The Save the Baypointe Golf Course group formed not long after the golf course was sold in July 2015.

The group’s president, Linda McDowell made a post on Facebook after the commission approved the purchase.

“We thank the residents and communities for your support over the last five years, and a special thanks to Commissioner Janet Long for supporting our efforts,” McDowell said. “The vote today supports long term green space protection and use for purposes vital to storm water drainage. Plans for a stormwater park with community use as recreational green space, align with the county's strategic plan. This is a win -win for residents and Pinellas County.”

After the vote Jan. 14, the audience began clapping.

“It’s always nice to make somebody happy,” said Commission Chair Pat Gerard.

Burton said Jan. 9 that some were still interested in having a golf course on the land adding that wasn’t going to happen. He also said staff still isn’t certain about the extent of park amenities. Burton said it would all depend on maintenance costs.

Commissioner Janet Long said people in the area were used to having that greenspace and it was important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.