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DELRAY BEACH — As Delray Beach continues to face a housing crunch, developers plan on transforming a vacant golf course on Atlantic Avenue into a 79-home gated community.
But the project has sparked some concerns about whether upscale townhomes are the best use of the city’s scarce available land.
A 37-acre course located between Military Trail and Interstate 95, Legacy at Sherwood Park Golf Course has remained vacant since 2018, slowly turning into an “eyesore.” The project, which is being overseen by Pulte Group and Urban Design Studio, would reside in between two neighboring housing developments to the east, west and north of the golf course.
Chris Davey, a member of the Delray Beach Planning and Zoning Board, raised concerns with the project during a meeting. “A developer is going to come in and take [nearly] 40 acres of land and build approximately 70-80 homes with zero affordable housing,” Davey said.
“We’re talking about [nearly] 40 acres of open space within the city and we’re going to put in a very tight community.”
At roughly 16.5 square miles, Delray Beach is geographically a relatively small city — just half the size of neighboring Boca Raton. According to city documents, 98% of Delray Beach is already built out, creating a premium on available land.
Rob Long, a member of the Planning and Zoning Board, said he’s a “big proponent of affordable housing,” but emphasized it’s not a requirement for the proposed land.
“We need housing in general,” Long said during a public meeting. “It’s not an argument between affordable housing and single-family housing. It’s an argument between single-family housing and a vacant golf course.
“We’re talking about open land in this pedantic, sort of silly way like it’s numbers. It’s not usable land. No one’s using it right now. It’s an eyesore.”
Across the United States, many golf courses have shuttered over the years, often with developers turning those massive parcels into homes. In the past 15 years, more than 1,600 18-hole courses have closed, according to the National Golf Foundation in Jupiter.
A representative from Urban Design Group declined to comment to the South Florida Sun Sentinel and Pulte Group could not be reached for comment.
Residents at the neighboring community support the project, said John Colasacco, President of the Sherwood Forest Homeowners Association. 87% of the residents voted in favor of the proposal, Colasacco said during a public meeting.
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He said a gated community would improve security, and that residents would be able to utilize the golf course’s clubhouse, lamenting they’ve had to hold their monthly meetings outside by the pool.
“I’m tired of looking at a ridiculous empty lot there and I think this would be an asset to our community,” he said.
Not all community members are in favor of the proposal, though. Mark Shinkonis, who lives adjacent to the golf course, told city officials he bought his home because of the open space and he doesn’t want “people to be looking in my back window.”
“We need a green space in this city,” Shinkonis said. “We need space. We need a little room to breathe, to drive around. Or else it’s not going to be a very nice place for anybody.”
The project has received initial approval from the Planning and Zoning Board, but still needs to be approved by the City Commission.