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From fairways and greens to driveways and houses

Real estate boom, lack of buildable land finds Palm Beach County golf courses converted to subdivisions
Posted at 7:23 PM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 20:26:53-04

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — "This is paradise." That's how Rochelle Baker-Hughes described her home that overlooks the 15th fairway of Lone Pine Golf Course.

She and her husband Ken discovered it when they moved to South Florida and went house hunting.

"Eighteen years ago, we walked in and we said, 'This is home,'" Baker-Hughes said. "We loved it. We said, 'We want it. We'll pay a higher price.'"

But the view of the golf course she paid a higher price for may soon disappear for her and dozens of other homeowners along Lone Pine Golf Course.

"I'm losing what we bought," she said.

Rochelle Baker-Hughes admires her view at Lone Pine Golf Course
Rochelle Baker-Hughes admires the view from her dream house overlooking the Lone Pine Golf Course in Riviera Beach.

D.R. Horton Homes, the nation's largest home builder, has plans to convert Lone Pine Golf Course into a subdivision of more than 250 houses.

"I'm probably going to see the backs of probably four or five homes," Baker-Hughes lamented.

Lone Pine is not the only golf course potentially facing conversion. Contact 5 obtained records from the Palm Beach County Zoning Division showing 20 golf course conversion plans are in various stages of development.

Not all will necessarily be approved.

Real estate experts see the trend of converting fairways and greens to homes and apartments continuing.

"We're just out of land," Echo Properties Realtor Jeff Lichtenstein said.

He said some area courses are seeing fewer players as a real estate boom sends property values soaring more than 30% in the past year.

"What a public golf course can make now hasn't went up 30-40%, but the land value has," Lichtenstein said.

There may not be much homeowners can do.

Land use attorney Howard Nelson said homeowners face an uphill fight, even if they have verbal or written promises that golf course land stays recreational.

building plans for Lone Pine Golf Course to be converted into homes
Lone Pine Golf Course is part of a growing trend of golf courses being converted to homes in Palm Beach County.

"I don't think that's ever been interpreted to mean, 'We're going to force someone to operate a golf course there,'" Nelson said.

During Contact 5's investigation, D.R. Horton scaled back its plan from building 282 homes to 269.

That's not good enough for the lawyer representing nearby homeowners.

"Not on our recreational space and not on our golf course," Brennan Grogan said.

Grogan hopes to avoid court by convincing Riviera Beach city leaders not to rezone the land.

"That's property that really belongs to everybody in the city that's now going to be converted to a residential community," Grogan said. "And you won't ever get that back."

The owner of Lone Pine did not return any calls.

A representative for D.R. Horton asked Contact 5 to send a list of questions. Even after the questions were submitted, the company didn't return any of Contact 5's emails.

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