Forty acres of The Oak Bridge Club golf course would be sold in exchange for a deed restriction that would guarantee the remaining golf course stays undeveloped for recreational purposes until 2057 under terms of a proposed agreement reached between the club’s owners and an ad hoc committee representing Sawgrass Players Club residents.
Community residents received a postcard from the Sawgrass Players Club Association Board of Directors earlier this week notifying them that the ad hoc committee established to review and negotiate with golf course owner Alta Mar Holdings had reached a proposed agreement. The mailing alerted Players Club residents that they would receive a copy of the agreement by mail in January, along with a proxy ballot. Residents may mail in their ballot by Jan. 30, 2017 or vote in person on the proposed agreement at a special meeting to be held Feb. 6, 2017.
“The Association will be legally bound by your decision,” the postcard states. “Your vote is critical!”
While residents will receive copies of the complete proposal – which will also be posted online at the Sawgrass Players Club resident website – parties involved in the negotiations say the major points include agreeing to Alta Mar’s desire to sell the back nine holes of the golf course. Once the property is sold, $2 million of the proceeds would be put into escrow and earmarked solely for improving the remaining 12 holes, which would include a nine-hole course and a three-hole practice loop. The proposed agreement also includes several points aimed at protecting the views of Players Club residents who live along the golf course as well as a commitment that new traffic from the proposed development will not have direct vehicular access inside the community’s gates.
Alta Mar’s David Miller thanked the ad hoc committee members for investing several months of time and effort in reviewing and negotiating on behalf of the community’s residents.
“The community came to realize how much is at stake here,” he said. “If the golf course closes, that would lower property values on homes around the golf course. That, in turn, would affect the real estate comps, lowering property values throughout the Players Club.”
Miller pointed to the improvements made to The Oak Bridge Club – formerly known as the Ponte Vedra Golf Club – in the past year, including a reported $65,000 in upgrades to the driving range, major renovations to the club house, the opening of the new 3 Palms Grille restaurant and the installation of 10 Har-Tru tennis courts at a cost of $500,000.
“We have a very robust tennis membership,” Miller said. “The tennis leagues have really added a vibrancy on both sides of the street, as players come over (to the clubhouse) for a drink or lunch afterwards.”
Under the proposed agreement, the sections of the golf course to be sold would be developed as a continuing care retirement community and a cultural center. That plan has drawn criticism from some residents both inside and outside of Sawgrass Players Club, who don’t want the property to be developed. One such group plans to hold a public town hall meeting in January to propose that residents purchase the property and preserve it as a community park and botanical garden (see related story on page 5).
David Miller said that while he is not opposed to that suggestion, he believes it is premature to discuss what will happen to the 40 acres prior to receiving a vote by Sawgrass Players Club residents on whether to lift the current deed restrictions, thereby clearing the way for the property to be sold. He also noted that should Players Club residents vote in favor of the agreement, Alta Mar must then send the project on to the county, where he estimated it would take at least six months to move through the review process.
At that time, Miller said, local residents would have an opportunity to voice their opinions on the project. In the meantime, he hopes that the improvements Alta Mar has made to The Oak Bridge Club will reassure Players Club residents that the golf club project is in good hands.
“We have lifted this community asset out of the ground,” Miller said. “Seeing is believing.”