The owner of the shuttered Rock Springs Ridge golf course in Apopka is seeking to convert its unused fairways into a large active adult residential community.
At a Development Review Committee meeting Wednesday morning David Evans of Evans Engineering Inc., representing property owner Robert “Bob” Dello Russo, sought a comprehensive plan amendment to change the land use of the golf course property to feature a density of two units per acre.
The modification would permit adding about 240 units to the entire Rock Springs Ridge Planned Unit Development, approved by Orange County and then annexed into the City of Apopka in 1996.
Under the current approvals, there are entitlements for 22 residential units that haven’t been constructed, Evans said. The development team is seeking to convert the golf course’s current land use designation to Residential Very Low Suburban, which would authorize an additional 239 units for a total of 261 home lots.
DRC members asked the representative to bring in more information for a second review. Once reviews are cleared, the development team will seek out zoning and site plan approvals from the Apopka Planning Commission and City Council.
“We have a long road to go,” Evans told DRC members Wednesday morning. “We need to make sure there is sufficient access to the property and that any proposed [density] increase would not negatively affect your service.”
Dello Russo’s Longwood-based Golf Group company tapped Luke Transportation Engineering Consultants Inc. to provide a transportation analysis for the proposed comp plan amendment.
The study shows the proposed residential land use density will result in an increase of 1,756 daily trip ends and 186 P.M. peak hour trip ends, relative to the adopted land use densities. It also said roadways will not operate at an adverse level of service if the density is increased.
According to a submitted Large-Scale Future Land Use Change application, the subject property is about 116 acres.
Urban planning company EDSA partnered with Evans Engineering last year to create a preliminary concept plan that depicts a 161-lot subdivision rising on the northeastern portion of the golf course. Amenities include trail systems and several parks and fitness stations. The neighborhood will not be gated and plans will incorporate ample green space and pet-friendly stations and parks. Lots will be deed restricted for households of persons 55 years of age or older, he added.
At the meeting, Evans said plans are to keep density at one unit per acre; however, the concept plan for the subdivision would result in a 1.4 unit per acre density.
The Rock Springs Ridge golf course operated from 1999 to 2014.
In a letter sent to the Rock Springs Ridge Home Owners Association in 2013 Dello Russo said his company had been struggling to fund the club, and was losing over a half a million dollars per year to try to keep it afloat.
“When we bought Rock Springs, we had high hopes for it,” he said in the letter. “We believed that the course was a great layout and had a great future. We never suspected for one minute that it would get in trouble.”
Today, the Rock Springs Ridge HOA strongly opposes the proposed development plans.
HOA Board Director Scott Sherrer told GrowthSpotter the requested density does not have merit and is inconsistent in regards to the original PUD and allowable units per acre.
A petition to stop the development was signed by over 2,000 residents.
Fishback Dominick partner Kurt Ardaman, who is representing the Rock Springs Ridge HOA, said the PUD is overbuilt based on a city ordinance that only allows a one unit per acre density.
Not only that, but some original calculations of acreage for the entire PUD, which is used by city officials and planning agencies to develop proposals and establish development guidelines, had to be corrected when resident Gary McSweeney conducted a subdivision narrative in 2018 that revealed an additional 300 acres were added to the PUD inaccurately.
Ardaman argues the city should work to address discrepancies in the PUD amendments and proposed comp plan amendment before taking any action.
“The roughly 300 acres that make up the golf course was already used to get the density to build the current 1,320 homes. The PUD used the golf course, not only once to get density and homes built, but a second time to meet the recreational space and open space requirement,” he said. “It’s a double dipper.”