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Pasco golf course-turned-forest nears resolution, at least for some neighbors

The future of the defunct golf course in Beacon Woods could finally be resolved soon.

Shuttered in 2019 like so many other courses in Pasco County and elsewhere that no longer drew enough golfers to survive, the Beacon Woods course in Hudson will become something else. In this case, however, adjacent residents have had more to say about what that will be than in other former golf course communities.

Despite efforts to improve the golf course with upgraded greens and tee areas and other changes, the owner, Lowman Links, was unable to generate enough community support to keep it open. Soon after the course closed, portions of the property were planted with trees.

Now the Lowman Links property is under contract with Ryan Homes, which plans to build 218 homes, a developer’s representative told Pasco planning commissioners last week. Part of the agreement also included an offer to two of the community’s village homeowners associations that back up to the golf course property.

If the residents of those two villages, known as the Estates and Reserve of Beacon Woods and Fairway Oaks agree, the former golf course fairways would be deeded over to them at no cost. That is a rare deal for the 25-acre and 20-acre properties.

“This is quite an opportunity that I have never seen in all my years, for the home owners to control their properties and control what’s in their backyard,” said Barbara Wilhite, representing Ryan Homes at a Planning Commission meeting in October.

She said she could recite what has happened to other defunct Pasco golf courses. The county took over Timber Oaks, Gulf Harbors and Magnolia Valley, while “Quail Hollow has homes on it,” she said.

Eighty seven percent of the Beacon Woods residents in the Estates voted in favor of taking over responsibility for the golf course land in the area closest to them in January 2023. Fairway Oaks homeowners representatives had not yet responded despite numerous notices and public meetings on the topic as of last week’s Planning Commission meeting.

The discussion to finalize the sale of the property has dragged on as details of the new ownership arrangement have been tweaked. There has been a discussion about whether the trees planted on the golf course land could someday be harvested. The county’s provisions for changing the use of the land from a golf course are specific no matter whether ownership of parcels remain with the Lowman family or is transferred to homeowners’ associations.

Various passive uses would be considered acceptable, from a neighborhood park to “bonafide” timber farming, according to the county memorandum considered last week by the Planning Commission.

Wilhite told commission members that residents of the Estates are ready to take over the property and that the property owner and Ryan Homes were satisfied with the details. She said she has not worked with Fairway Oaks.

Jack Brummett, the president of the Estates Homeowners Association, said that his community has stepped up to do what is necessary to take on the 25-acre parcel. They have already been out on the land in three work days. “Our people are working vigorously to keep the fairways looking nice and they do look beautiful,” he said. “We’ve got skin in this and our people want it to happen.”

He added, “it’s been four years since the closure. We’re ready to move on.”

Joseph Sears, who lives in the adjacent Enclave area of the Estates, said he also supports taking on the land and believes that homeowners have worked well with the current land owner and have also proven their commitment.

“Since 2020, our community has embraced the change from golf course to tree farm by spending hundreds if not thousands of sweat equity hours cleaning up the fairways. I want to add this was done at no cost to Pasco County taxpayers,” Sears said.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the change in the land designation to the County Commission which is scheduled to consider the application March 26.