A meeting was held on Nov. 7 that allowed residents of Walden Lake to sit down with the developers of the golf course to get an update on the project and have some of their questions answered.
Residents of Walden Lake met with Walden Lake, LLC last week to get an update of the future of the development of the golf course.
Carmine Zayoun, co-partner of Walden Lake, LLC, gave a brief presentation regarding some of the studies in progress, the results of the community survey and touched on a conceptual plan for the project. Then the floor was opened up for an informal Q&A, in which residents voiced their concern over stormwater issues and pushed for more details on the conceptual development plan.
Zayoun has long said the plan of the LLC is to work with the community already in place to create a collaborative development. He said that he knows that change is a big word and that communities all over Florida are changing. Based on his conversations with the HOA and his “feel for the community,” Zayoun said, they decided to find a way to go about the development while being as unobtrusive as possible.
“I do understand how change impacts a community,” Zayoun said. “I lived in a community, I’m originally Canadian and I lived in a similar community in Canada on a golf course where there was a similar project for folks, so I understand. I understand that with evolving communities now and with change and how people have evolved and how people have changed and how communities have changed, there’s been different needs and wants in different communities that make them more thriving, that have improved communities, that make them more desirable. Our goal is to do that with the least intrusion possible and work with all of you on developing a better Walden Lake.”
The LLC acquired the property in March 2019 and immediately contracted out to maintain the property, aka cutting the grass and dealing with break-ins at clubhouse. They then developed a team of engineers and planners to create the plan of the future of the former golf course. Zayoun said they are working very closely with the HOA and hired a third-party survey company to survey neighbors. They want to understand what the community wants to see.
The results proved what many already knew. Walden Lake is a split community. Of the responses they received, it was practically split down the middle with 51 percent being for a golf course and 49 percent being against. It’s too close for them to feel comfortable, so Zayoun said it would be up to the community to tell them what to do. If they want a golf course, they may have to make some tweaks but the LLC will build one. If the community wants walking trails or other amenities, they’ll make it happen. Regardless, once built it becomes the community’s responsibility, so the LLC refuses to create something the entire community isn’t ready to handle.
Zayoun also said it became clear that it was important to the community that they become a part of the current HOA and pay into the HOA already in place. He said it is still being discussed, but they understand it is a top concern since the HOA and current residents will be responsible for the amenities and green space the developer builds for them.
The question on everyone’s mind was simple: what will be built and what is being axed? That, in part, was addressed, though everything is still in its conceptual phases.
Once again, Zayoun mentioned the plan of having a core “city center” that would have retail on the bottom and apartments on top. The concept of having everything from a dog groomer to a cafe was floated. Then they said they’re looking at putting single-family dwellings toward the back along the railroad tracks.
This “city center” sparked quite a debate among attendees. A resident asked for specifics as to the number of residences — whether they be apartments, town homes, villas or single family dwellings — the LLC planned to build throughout the entire development including this hub. She then went on to add that, in her opinion apartments, “don’t work” with the way the city handles traffic and feels they would not be prepared for an onslaught of residents.
That led to several other comments from the gathered crowd about their hesitancy toward adding any apartments at all to the community and alluded to concerns of their financial stability and impact on the characteristics of Walden Lake. Zayoun simply said the apartments they discussed are of the highest quality and thus would come with a price tag that reflected that quality of product. He said he understands that Walden Lake has the reputation of being the “cream of the crop” and wants to build off of that rather than retract from it.
Of course, several of the community members who have been strongly against any development also made their presence felt and asked many questions regarding the specifics of the studies the LLC has in place to ensure their development doesn’t cause any issues for their neighbors. The developer discussed the plan for buffers, but kept repeating that this was still in the conceptual stage.
The timeline for the entire project was also a point of interest during the Q&A. While there are still a few things to hash out, the LLC said it plans to submit plans to the city hopefully sometime during the next two months.
When concerns of the timing of the meeting were floated, Zayoun said there was the possibility they may meet again so residents who were unable to attend the first one, whether due to them being at the Florida Strawberry Festival Volunteer Dinner or any of the other major city events that were scheduled for the same time, would have the chance to learn firsthand what the LLC has in store. He said if the need was there and the HOA was on board, they would consider adding a second date.