Article Courtesy of The
Tampa Bay Times
By Barbara Behrendt
Published October 30, 2020
NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County commissioners voted Tuesday to move ahead with
their long-planned purchase of the Gulf Harbors/Flor-a-Mar golf course property
with plans to convert it into a neighborhood park surrounding a conservation
Several years ago, the
county had agreed to buy the property, but the deal stalled
when a resident filed legal action over the county’s plan to
have homeowners pay for half the purchase. Tuesday’s vote by
the commission has the county making the purchase first and
working out how to have residents pay for their community
The reason to move ahead now is because one of the major
sticking points with the property was recently resolved when
the owner completed the cleanup of soils contaminated with
arsenic and pesticides. Earlier this month, commissioners
asked for a new contract to be drawn up to purchase the site
from Staryn Hinshaw as sole successor trustee of the
Marshall A. Springer and Mary Margaret Springer Intervivos
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey raised the issue, reminding her fellow
commissioners that the neighborhood had no mandatory homeowners association
that could purchase the golf course on its own and needed the county’s help
to save the land for recreation rather than future development. “It’s just
been so needed for our community,” said Starkey, who is also a resident.
The cost for the 50 acres is $1.2 million and the sale will be contingent on
the state Department of Environmental Protection signing off on the cleanup.
The county officially started the purchase process in 2016 with plans to
fund half the cost from the county’s fund for environmentally sensitive land
purchases and the other half to be charged back to Gulf Harbors' 1,800
residents. The mechanism to charge residents through a municipal service
benefit unit was stalled by the lawsuit. A key concern of the lawsuit was
that the land owner might not pay for the remediation, placing the financial
burden on residents instead.
Tuesday’s vote anticipates the county making the purchase using several
funding sources including environmentally sensitive lands funds, Penny for
Pasco proceeds and parks and recreation funds. The plan is to work out a
payment program so $600,000 of the cost will come from community residents
after the closing.
Diane Kobernick, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, said the county was not
making a good decision on the price since the appraisal was done four years
ago based on the value of the land for residential development. She said the
$1.2 million purchase was for a non-essential project on land which will
still have arsenic in the soil. She also said the taxing method for the
residents was unfair, charging the same to all residents regardless of the
value of their homes.
The Gulf Harbors Civic Association stood behind the purchase with the
president of the group, Arthur Haedike, saying that most residents support
the project. “We feel a park is the highest and best use of this property,”
he said. “Frankly, I can’t see why anyone would object to having a park in
Gulf Harbors was one of the original high–end communities in Pasco County,
developed more than 50 years ago as a dredge–and–fill project creating
canal–front lots leading to channels and the Gulf of Mexico. The 18–hole
golf course, which opened in 1971, closed more than a decade ago.
The future plan includes having the county’s environmental lands program
preserve 25 acres of salt marsh that attracts rare sandpipers and other
migratory waterfowl. The remaining 25 acres would be turned into a passive
park, potentially featuring a trail, dog–walking area and picnic site.