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City still not buying new public golf course plans

The new public golf course in Boca Teeca could have opened by the fall 2020 if all went well with the city. It hasn’t so far.

After a second look Monday, council wanted more time to chew on the design and a $20 million buy-in. The earliest consensus could come in six weeks at council’s next workshop meeting July 22.

That means another delay for Boca National Golf Club, waiting on construction bids to proceed.

The project set aside the clubhouse and tunnel under Second Avenue for later or never. All they’re asking for now is an 18-hole course, 11-hole short course, a driving range and extensive putting range, Commissioner Craig Ehrnst told council. As the treasurer, he spoke for the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District that bought the foreclosed, 27-hole former Ocean Breeze course last year.

“We have to start somewhere,” he said.

A proposed partnership and control of the course going forward will depend on how much the city kicks in, Ehrnst said.

The district can’t take on the rest of the course without delaying other projects like redoing Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, he said. Floating another loan or raising the millage rate for taxpayers, their only source of revenue, would be their only alternatives. The district doesn’t want to do either, he added.

“One of the issues we have is sticker shock,” said Councilman Andy Thomson.

“I would recommend how this could be done in a different way,” Thomson said, after a briefing by the district’s consultant, the Price Fazio team.

Thomson invited staff from Winter Park’s nine-hole municipal course to a July council meeting after talking it up at the city-district joint meeting in May.

Boca Teeca residents, not just the city need to buy in, Ehrnst said. All the homeowner associations will have to approve what the course would need to be successful, he told council.

“Boca Teeca doesn’t want another losing project,” agreed Harold Chaffee, president of Keep Golf in Boca.

“If we take this over, do we have to start from scratch or can we take the ball from here?” asked Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke. She was reassured they could start with the existing design.

Having the city take over the project was still on the table. The city operates two golf courses now, a 9-hole at Red Reef Park and the muni on Glades Road just outside city limits. That was sold to GL Homes and an extension of the closing is still in the works.

The Boca National issues come down to the design, the financing and who does what after the course is built, Deputy City Manager George Brown summed up at the end of the meeting.

Even after hearing everyone out, council was still not comfortable, is how Mayor Scott Singer put it.

“It’s a big undertaking,” Ehrnst agreed. “But it’s a great opportunity to do something for the future.”

By Marci Shatzman

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