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Plant City Observer Thursday, Jun. 23, 2016 2 years ago

Letter to Editor: Walden Lake golf course rezone meeting

Walden Lake Resident Robert Philbin writes about his experience at the City of Plant City Planning Board meeting Thursday, June 16.

Standing room only

Dear Editor,

I would like to say thank you to our City of Plant City Planning Board and everyone who turned out — both those in red, opposing the rezone, and green, for the rezone.

We were told there was enough seating for 300, and as you can see in pictures, it was standing room only. 
Facing the podium, the group on the right was against the rezone, with a significant amount on the left side standing. Basically it was a sea of red.

I understand the demand on everyone’s time, so let me recap the evening and remind everyone how important it is to show up and demonstrate your interest to the city leaders.

Represented by a cadre of lawyers and experts, the Vision Golf team led off the evening with a one-hour presentation.
Pamela Jo Hatley represented the Walden Lake Community Association during a 30-minute presentation. Hatley did an excellent job of describing how the land proposed for development is very much part of the “fabric” of our community and an “integral” part of the original intent of our master planned community.

Hatley also presented 1,464 signatures on a no to rezone petition to the Planning Board.

Nick Brown, resident of Laurel Lakes and a registered intervener, spoke and challenged the Visions team on issues of traffic and stormwater outflow to Walden Lake. 

Bob Hunter, also a registered intervener, brought his 25 years of city planning experience to the table. 

In my opinion, Vision’s weak answers were the primary reason the hearing to be extended to four and one half hours. 
Following these presentations, over 30 of your neighbors made three-minute statements against the rezone, and about five made statements for rezoning.

Some of these remarks included:

“… the golf course and the green space is why most people moved here years ago.” — Terri Murphy

“… the wild-life, from gopher turtles, bald eagles, grey and white herons, is what makes my day,” — Lisa Putnam

“… Forbes magazine has just published an article on the renaissance of golf.” — Mike Wolfe

“… reminds me of the parasites that tried to “block bust” in the 1960s.” — Harley Herman

“… I believe God is watching over us, and I have faith good will prevail.” — Carol Herman

“… privatizing profits and socializing losses … sets a moral hazard precedent.” — Don Marshall

It was not until the last minutes of the meeting that Steve Mercer, of Visions Golf, spoke. Detailing his financial woes, year after year, “not just golf, but the restaurants too,” that his attorneys cut him short at year 2011.

The fact that we had residents in walkers wearing red and babies in strollers wearing red demonstrates that this transcends golf. It will be important for everyone to turn out for the next planning meeting and, of course, the City Commissioners meeting later this summer.

Thank you,

Robert J. Philbin
Resident, Walden Lake

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