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Plans to build homes on closed Florida golf course riles up residents

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ORMOND BEACH, Fla. — A local investor group has purchased the former Tomoka Oaks Golf & Country Club with plans to redevelop it as a new home community. They paid $2.6 million, according to Volusia County property records.

But some residents are hoping for a mulligan that can result in reopening the 57-year-old semi-private golf course which shut down a few years ago.

“Tomoka Oaks has the best drainage of any course around,” said John T. Anthony, a longtime area resident whose home sits off the seventh tee. “It’s 25 feet above sea level and is one of the highest points in the county. If we’re going to save any golf course in the area, it should be this one.”

Anthony is one of a number of residents who recently began displaying signs in their front yard with the message “Preserve Tomoka Oaks Golf Course.”

“We have a lot of residents that are very concerned about the future development of this nearly 60-year-old golf course,” said Jim Rose, a longtime resident who chairs the golf course committee for the community’s voluntary home owners association.

Opened in 1964 as a Sam Snead course

The 18-hole Tomoka Oaks Golf & Country Club opened in 1964. The defunct course includes a two-story clubhouse that used to have a restaurant, bar, golf pro shop and banquet facilities. It also had tennis courts and a community swimming pool. All are no longer in use.

The new owners include Ray Barshay, owner of the RiverGrille on the Tomoka restaurant next to Tomoka Oaks, and Carl Velie, a local Realtor, as well as an investor from the Orlando area.

No firm redevelopment plans yet

Barshay said he has heard the rumors regarding his and his partners’ plans for the former golf course land, which sits in the middle of the Tomoka Oaks community. Most are untrue, he said.

“We’ve heard people say there could be 600-some homes out there. We haven’t decided anything yet,” he said. “We don’t have a fixed plan at this point. It’s still early in the process.”

Barshay said he and his partners plan to hold multiple meetings with Tomoka Oaks residents to understand their concerns and to explain their intentions regarding the former golf course. The first meeting is set for May 20.

“We plan to sit and listen to what people have to say,” said Barshay. He is a former Tomoka Oaks resident who still lives in Ormond Beach, as does Velie.

The chances of the golf course reopening are pretty slim, Barshay conceded. “I’d love to see it reopen, but there’s not a way to make the numbers work today. To bring that course back would probably cost $6 to $7 million. The amount of money needed to restore it is epic and you could invest all that money and still not know if you could make a profit.”

Tomoka Oaks is one of several public golf courses that have closed in Volusia County in recent years. Others include the city-owned River Bend Golf Club next to Ormond Beach Municipal Airport that ceased operation at the end of December.

An Orlando developer is also looking to redevelop the former Sandhill Golf Course with a housing development. Sandhill closed in 2017.

Anthony said some home owners association members hope to convince the city of Ormond Beach to sell the River Bend Golf Club property and use the proceeds to buy and reopen Tomoka Oaks Golf & Country Club.

“It’s not craziness, but I don’t know if the city wants to do that,” he said.

No legal obligation to keep golf course

Anthony said some HOA members are under the belief that Tomoka Oaks has a deed restriction requiring the golf course to remain open.

That is no longer the case, confirmed Steven Spraker, the city of Ormond Beach’s planning director.

“The property in 2006 had a planned residential development order approved by the city that would have allowed 122 residential units, but would have required (then-owner Dick Ryals) to keep the golf course. But then the recession hit and the development was never built. That development order has since expired.”

City Commissioner Dwight Selby, who is also a Realtor, expressed doubt that the city would step in to buy the Tomoka Oaks golf course property from Barshay, Velie and their partner.

“I think the opportunity to do it would have been before Ray and Carl bought it,” Selby said. “There really wasn’t a push before that. Nobody came to the City Commission.”

The city’s zoning for the former golf course property allows up to four houses per acre to be developed. “With the roads and storm water retention ponds that would be required, the more realistic number of homes that could be built would be in the 350 range,” said Anthony.

The owners will need to obtain a new planned residential development order from the city before proceeding with their project, according to Spraker.

Course has had multiple owners over the years

Tomoka Oaks Golf & Country Club has changed hands several times over the years. Its longest owner was Dick Ryals, a local radiologist who bought the golf course in 1979. He and his family ran it until 2010 when they turned the property over to Putnam State Bank.

Putnam sold the golf course to an Orlando area investor group led by Ed Meixsell in 2011. The group held on to the property until its sale on April 23 of this year to Barshay, Velie and their partner.

Ryals is now retired still lives in Tomoka Oaks. He said the golf course ceased operations a few years ago, but “never officially closed. Functionally, it hasn’t been worth playing on for a few years.”

At one time, Tomoka Oaks was considered one of the Daytona Beach area’s premier golf courses, according to longtime residents.

Future NFL placekicker Sebastian Janikowski, who graduated from Seabreeze High School, was golfing at Tomoka Oaks when he learned he had been selected in the first round of the 2000 draft by the Oakland Raiders. He played in the NFL for 19 seasons.

“Almost everyone in Volusia County knows someone who either grew up in Tomoka Oaks or at one time lived there or played the golf course or played tennis there,” said Tomoka Oaks resident Beth King said. “It was quite the place to be.”

King said she and her husband, who is an avid golfer, hope the new owners can find a way to keep at least a nine-hole course.

“We’ve lived here for 15 years. The golf course was totally active when we moved in,” she said.

original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/05/11/plans-build-homes-closed-florida-golf-course-riles-up-residents/

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