Save Pinellas Green Space: Three Seminole-area Golf Communities Join Forces to Preserve Land, Prevent Redevelopment

SEMINOLE — Bardmoor. Baypointe. Tides.

Three Seminole-area golf course properties with uncertain fates.

In many ways, their stories are similar. In Pinellas County, the most densely populated county in the state of Florida, large swatches of open green space — undeveloped land — are hard to come by. Developers eye these properties as attractive possibilities, whether they’re active golf courses or not.

Despite the similarities, though, each property has its own unique story.

By now, Save the Tides is used to protesting the development of green space, said Ron Stephens, a board member for the organization.

Two of them — Baypointe Golf Course and Tides Golf Club — no longer operate as golf courses, while Bardmoor Golf & Tennis Club remains open and active.

Bardmoor and Tides currently face potential rezoning and redevelopment, which has inspired thousands living in nearby homes to step up and speak out against these plans.

For nearly five years, owners of Baypointe Golf Course, 9399 Commodore Dr., have neglected the property, said Linda McDowell, founder of the Save Baypointe Golf Club.

“They’ve basically abandoned it,” she said in an interview with the Beacon. “Something needs to be done.”

While there are no known redevelopment plans at Baypointe, the property has been neglected by its owners for years, creating safety concerns as evidenced by an April 15 fire on the property. Liens on the property total nearly $400,000 as the county has been forced to maintain the land.

Each golf course has also inspired its own group of vocal supporters — Save Bardmoor, Save Baypointe Golf Course, Save the Tides.

In recent months, these organizations have joined forces to create a unified voice.

It didn’t take long for the residents living near Bardmoor Golf & Tennis Club, 8001 Cumberland Rd., to activate once they learned the property’s owner, Bayou Golf LLC, intended to sell the property to developers if they were able to successfully appeal to the county to rezone the land. They immediately created Save Bardmoor, an organization dedicated to saving the property from redevelopment.

“There’s a bigger picture,” said Jeff Harring, a member of Save Bardmoor. “We all have an interest in our backyard, in our neighborhood. But this is about more than our own backyard.”

Phil Day, also with Save Bardmoor, agreed.

“This is a bigger issue,” he said. “This is not a Bardmoor problem. This is a Pinellas County problem.”

Harring envisions the formation of one main group, Save Pinellas Green Space.

“Instead of assaulting one golf course at a time, forcing individuals to respond and rally in an uncoordinated way, we’re going to get together as an entire compact of people who care about the land, care about stewardship, care about the county, care about our children, care about our children’s children, and we’re going to take care of this land,” he said.

The three groups recently held a joint protest, a Green Space Rally, April 27 along Park Boulevard in front of Waterfront Park. The Facebook event page described the rally as a protest against “overdevelopment by out-of-state developers and further loss of what little open space we have left in the county.” Nearly 200 protesters showed up.

Ruthann Joans of Madeira Beach said, “It’s just sad that Pinellas is becoming a cement county. We need more green spaces.”

Amy Kedron, a 2018 Pinellas County Commission candidate attending the rally, said she doesn’t understand why the county doesn’t purchase the properties.

“It’s the perfect opportunity for the county to do some proactive land acquisition,” she said.

Ron Stephens with Save the Tides, said, “We can’t have these recreational open spaces be destroyed. They’re just too precious and we don’t have enough of them left in our county.”

Pinellas County commissioners did not respond to a request for comment.

In an April 18 email to the Beacon, Jewel White, county attorney, wrote, “Since I anticipate the specific properties you have mentioned will be coming before the Board of County Commissioners at a quasi-judicial hearing in the future, it is not appropriate for Board members to discuss issues specific to these properties with anyone. Staff is planning a workshop this summer to discuss some of the general issues you mention (e.g., preservation of green space, potential redevelopment of golf courses) with the Board to provide them context for this broader discussion and give them an opportunity to have that discussion as a collegial body.”

In an interview with the Beacon, County Administrator Barry Burton said there are two issues at play.

“With Tides and Bardmoor, you have a developer that owns a piece of land proposing it be redeveloped,” he said. “By law, the commissioners are a quasi-judicial body where they need to hear the proposal. They’ll make a decision after the developer makes their case.”

He added, “At this point, they’re not in a position to say, ‘We’re going to buy this land. We should protect this land.’ It’s like a judge. They’ve got to hear the case.”

Baypointe, which has no pending rezoning request, is a different scenario because of the owner’s failure to maintain the property, he said. The county has the ability to use Penny for Pinellas funds to purchase land and staff has been in negotiations with the owners of Baypointe about purchasing the property. He said he couldn’t comment on the nature of these negotiations.

He understands the frustration of all three groups, he added, especially Save the Tides and Save Bardmoor.

“I understand their concerns,” he said. “I truly do. This directly impacts them. I completely appreciate them wanting to have this resolved, but there’s a process we have to follow by law.”