While the cement marker at the former 18th hole at West End Golf Club sits buried in dead 7-foot-tall weeds, a developer looking to fill in half of the 75 acres of the course's green space continues to make progress with an adjacent housing project.
Jay Brown, principal engineer and founder of JBPro development design and consulting, formally submitted a new application and plans for the property under contract with Sayed Moukhtara, the same developer of the two-story housing development at Tara West End that runs along Newberry Road.
Tara West was once advertised as being golf course adjacent even though Moukhtara had designs for changing the zoning of the golf course property from recreational to residential.
The claim was later removed from the site as Tara West progressed.
A development plan for the West End Golf property that started out two years ago with 487 residential units and an 80-room hotel has now been pared down to 129 single-family units, a tree line with open space, and a donation of 37 recreation acres to Alachua County.
The initial plan and subsequent applications have been met with petitions, protests and high attendance at informal and formal meetings about the topic.
Last month, JBPro held a required neighborhood workshop that brought much protest including a statement from golfer Steven Lochte who had his son, Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, with him. Steven attributed junior golf and other youth sports programs as playing a role in his son's success as well as thousands of other youth golfers.
Those plans have now officially been submitted to Alachua County for review of their request to change the future land use from the current green space to low-density residential along with a rezoning request.
According Jerry Brewington, senior planner for Alachua County Growth Management, the application has been received but will not advance until the liens on property have been rectified.
In December, West End property owner Peter Min had racked up $36,000 in code violation fines for dead trees near homes adjacent to the property.
"We have initiated the review of West End which at this point involves staff discussion and review," Brewington stated via email. "We will not go to public hearing until the liens have been resolved."
The application for a large-scale comprehensive plan amendment seeks to amend the future land use map (FLUM) of 38 acres out of the 75 from recreation to low-density residential and includes the limitations to a density of 140 lots maximum.
At the December workshop, the plan proposed stated that the "Developer has agreed to donate nearly half the property (37+/- acres) to Alachua County to create one of the largest parks in the county if county agrees" and it went further stating that the developer was willing to relinquish all control of those 37 acres of open space to a public entity.
Members of the WECARE organization (West End Community Alliance for Recreation and Education) are continuing to denounce the plan of changing the recreation space into more housing, arguing that the lack of a green space for the growing population and the expected increase in traffic does not serve the residents and creates unsafe and crowded roads.
A new application from the developer means that all of the efforts of the WECARE members to circulate a petition against the previous projects will start from scratch.
WECARE President Paul Hornby reached out to West End residents and neighborhoods to remind them that the new application had been submitted and that they would need to start over in the fight.
"Given this news it is officially time to ramp up our efforts," Hornby stated via email. "I suggest that we take the attitude that this past year and a half never happened. This is a brand new effort that will encompass a new letter writing campaign to the BOCC and newspapers, new demonstrations, new petition drive, new funding drive and new WECARE town hall meetings with the local communities."
Hornby also noted that another development was represented on Jan.25 by civil engineering and land surveying consultants CHW of Gainesville for a development adjacent to West End. It would be on the northeast corner of a 66-acre property and include 180 homes and be known as Buchanan Trails.
Hornby attended a Zoom meeting about that development and commented that his takeaway about the increase in traffic was there is a predicted 1,800 trips per day (10 trips per day per each of the 180 households) flowing out of the development.
"As it stands now, the traffic will be able to flow to the west on 136 Boulevard through Arbor Greens and south through the West End townhomes," Hornby commented about what was stated in the Buchanan Trails presentation, adding that CHW did not reveal the potential developer's name which is not required.