More than 30 homeowners who enjoyed West End Golf course as their backyard want to keep it that way.
A week after receiving development plans submitted to the Alachua County Planning Department by Gainesville the civil engineering firm JBrown Professional Group, the community known as “Friends of West End” donned face masks and gathered under a covered patio at Villas North, a section of the Villages of West End development.
The group represented homeowners from The Villages of West End Patio Homes, Villas North and South and The Greens at West End, all properties that are built around a 75-acre greens area up for sale and under contract.
One resident organizer, Susan Prewitt, serves as a Board Member for the Patio Homes of West End and is on the Architectural Control Committee.
She addressed the group saying, “Encourage your neighbors. The more people, the better off we’ll be.”
Prewitt read and spelled out the name of the potential property owner as Sayed Moukhtara who is from New Jersey, she told the group.
“My understanding is the first step is a neighborhood workshop with the developer,” Prewitt said about the process of converting the golf course space into a residential and commercial development. “The developer comes to the meeting and tells you how wonderful it’s going to be for your area.”
According to Alachua County Growth Management Principal Planner Jeff Hays, the 75-acre parcel that is the defunct West End Golf Club, located at 12830 West Newberry Road, is currently zoned as recreational.
The conceptual master plan titled "Tara Club West End" includes 40, 50, and 60-foot wide residential lots, a 20-foot wide single family townhouse lot, and a multi-family residential building.
The homeowners talked about petitions, neighborhood meetings, commission contacts, social media campaigns and offered alternative plans for the property including exploring a way to purchase it themselves or finding another buyer who will maintain the recreational zoning.
Kent Ratliff said he has lived on the 10th hole of West End Golf course hole for a decade and is a golfer. He offered an idea for Alachua County. “This kind of property is ripe for eminent domain takeover and they could reduce the price down,” he said. “So if the County wanted it, they wouldn’t have to pay $6 million, they could pay the value of the property which is probably $2 or $3 million."
Another resident suggested that greens were a perfect candidate for Alachua County’s “Wild Spaces and Public Places” program which uses sales tax revenue to acquire and improve environmentally sensitive lands to “create, improve and maintain parks and recreational facilities.
Another homeowner told the group to think ‘end game’ and about buying the property just as the residents of Turkey Creek golf community in Alachua did.
Homeowner and avid golfer Dave Mitchell said he played his first ever round of golf on the West End Golf course back in 1973 at age 12. Mitchell admits that the community can’t completely control what the potential new owner will do with the land.
“If it’s not going to be a golf course anymore, ok,” he said. “What we are all here to talk about is what we don’t want to happen.”
Prewitt spoke for a consensus of people in attendance at the meeting when she said the homeowners at the Villages of West End development located across the street from the Tioga Town Center on Newberry Road have a right to live around the green space that existed when they bought their homes.
She rejected the idea of replacing one of the only lit 18-hole golf courses in the state with hundreds of homes, a hotel and mixed use commercial space.
“This neighborhood was built around a golf course,” Prewitt said.