When you buy or build a home located on a golf course, you would expect to be able to enjoy the proximity to playing the game you love for the rest of your time there, or simply enjoy the expansive views of the course instead of looking out your window at other homes.
But through a little-known legal maneuver, the owner of the land may be able to request a zoning change from the county officials who regulate land zoning to allow more homes and condominiums on what once was a golf course.
That’s exactly what may happen at Riviera Golf Estates in the popular town of Naples, Florida.
Developed by the Winfield Companies beginning in 1967 and reaching build-out around 2003, Riviera Golf Estates is home to about 700 single-family homes and condos on 94 acres of land off Rattlesnake Hammock Road. The company that now owns the property, La Minnesota Riviera LLC, has presented a plan to build an additional 384 residential units on what is now the golf course, because they say the original deed restrictions have expired.
But many residents claim that their original deed to their property states that nothing will ever be built on the golf course.
As you may imagine, residents there are not happy.
The owner’s engineering firm, Hole Montes, presented the rezoning plan at a hearing in March 2022, and things got heated during the presentation. An initial meeting had to be rescheduled because of the large turnout. People vehemently objected to the plan, saying they have lived in Riviera Golf Estates for decades and the key to buying or building there was the golf course.
County law requires only 2 public meetings in order to request input regarding a subdivision zoning change, but Riviera residents say there are still far too many unanswered questions, and they’re banding together to fight what they feel is being rammed down their throats.
Attorneys for Hole Montes and the property owner have stated “they are open to questions,” but the majority of people who live there feel they are not being heard, and the owners are steamrolling over their concerns and will do what they want without considering any other options or input.
Because Riviera Golf Estates was developed so many years ago, the elevation of the land on which the current homes and condos sit is much lower than what is now required for residential construction. Not only are homeowners angry about looking out their windows to see other houses instead of a golf course, a civil engineer who lives in Riviera claims any new construction will result in a possible flooding disaster to not only their community but others nearby.
They also claim that the proposed new residential construction will allow buildings of 3-stories in height, something not currently allowed in Riviera.
Other residents said the new homes would be required to built on land 11 feet higher than current homes, and in the rainy season will cause severe flooding and potential property damage to their homes, particularly in the volatile hurricane season. Existing lakes that allow for water runoff would be filled in to accommodate the new construction of additional homes and condos, which residents say is a major problem.
Residents also point out that Collier County enacted deed restrictions requiring a 100-foot “greenway” surrounding residential development in the county, and now are turning a blind eye to their original planning and zoning. Many who have written letters to the editor of the local newspaper claim that the property’s owner’s new plans will absolutely devastate their property’s value.
At the second presentation meeting held by the property owners and Hole Montes, Riviera residents requested a third meeting to address their concerns, but as of this time that decision has not been made.
The property owner had previously requested a similar plan for shutting down the golf course and turning it into homes, but it did not succeed. Residents now fear that if it passes this time, the developers will not be around to deal with the detrimental aftermath of the decision, but rather do what many Florida land developers have done and still do – take the money and run without any regard for their actions.
A lot of Riviera Golf Estates homeowners were not even aware that zoning deed restrictions in a residential subdivision could expire. Now they’re organizing a fight that they say will hold Collier County government land zoning officials to their original word and intent, and preserve their property rights to enjoy living on a golf course property.