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Abandoned Golf Course in Sarasota: Preserve or Develop?

Written by on Friday, October 27, 2023

Neighbors want the county to turn it into a coastal wetland preserve.

By Ramon Lopez

Original Air Date: Oct. 27, 2023

Host: This golf course in Sarasota has been through three developers, but it’s still a large, overgrown chunk of land. Neighbors now want the county to turn it into a natural preserve. Ramon Lopez has been following this story.

Ramon Lopez:  Sarasota County Commissioners this past Tuesday discussed whether the county should purchase the abandoned Gulf Gate Executive Golf Course or let an unknown number of houses be built on the 49 acres.

The golf course opened in 1965, but was closed in 2016. It has been sitting empty since then and gone through several owners. It was rezoned to residential for 106 houses in 2016.

Owners in the established neighborhood and the Gulf Gate Community Association want the county to buy the unused golf course, rather than face more houses.

Back in September, the county commissioners asked staff to put together a presentation on the benefits of a purchase. They also wanted the presentation to point out any financial and environmental issues the county would face.

Public Works Director Spencer Anderson said the current owner would sell the land to the county or build houses on it. He said there are “very conceptual” water quality, drainage improvement, and passive recreational projects that seem feasible on this property. We’re talking about storm water storage, clean runoff into Little Sarasota Bay, and area road flood reduction.

But he told the commissioners there are environmental liabilities as well.

 Spencer Anderson: A concern with the property is the soil contamination. It has typical arsenic contamination that was from historical agricultural and golf course use. The property owner is going through the FDEP process for a remedial action plan to clean that up, so they can then move forward with their residential development. The property owner told me last week that they expect to have their clearances from the DEP within two weeks, and then potentially start site work within the next 90 days … after that.

 RL: Anderson also told the commissioners that the developer is willing to sell for $7 million. But he said the county has appraised the land at only between $3.8 million and $4.6 million. Also at issue is the fact that currently there is no county funding apportioned to purchase the property.

Several Gulf Gate residents chimed in on the county’s potential purchase of the golf course property.

Izzy Hines: All in all, buying this old golf course and turning it into a coastal wetland preserve can provide ecological services that will incredibly benefit Sarasota county. The main benefits are natural water filtration and storm protection.

Kathy Goff: The economic conditions and challenging environmental conditions are not favorable to the owner. Please approve moving forward and allowing staff to continue to engage with the owner-seller to keep the door open on the negotiations as they will evolve.

RL:  Sarasota County commissioners discussed the issues. Commissioner Joe Neunder said the county should proceed with a property purchase.

Joe Neunder: I certainly believe in my heart that this is a very noble project for many reasons in a community that’s been around in our area. It would be an unbelievable acquisition for our community and government here in Sarasota.

RL: The commissioners said the price the owner is asking was too high.

In the end, the commissioners did not decide on whether to move ahead to possibly purchase the golf course property. They elected to wait and see if the county could get the owner to lower his selling price to Sarasota County. And where the funding to buy the land would come from was not established. So the possible purchase of the property by the county remains in limbo.

Barring the county’s acquisition, the developer would move ahead with plans to build an unknown number of houses on the unused 49-acre golf course – a development the Gulf Gate neighborhood preservation organization fears.

This is Ramon Lopez for WSLR News.


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