Property values plummet as golf courses close in Central Florida

Homeowners fight zoning boards to prevent land development

By Eryka Washington - Investigative Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - In its prime, Lake Orlando Golf Club had manicured greens, magnificent views over lakes and majestic cypress trees. That's a far cry from what it's like now.

"They don't keep it mowed but maybe once a month," said Steve Cassano.

[WEB EXTRA: Extended interview ]

Cassano said since the course closed a year ago, homeless people are staying there.

"We got a lot more people walking around here that don't live here, especially in the early mornings, just walking, carrying bags, and we know they are living somewhere," Cassano said.

Homeowners living in Rock Springs Ridge said they are also teed off.

While Jim Scroggins still hits the ball in his yard, he blames poor membership for the closure of his neighborhood's 27-hole golf course last November.

"It got down to where there was about 11 of us who were members actually paying $2,500 a year," Scroggins said.

Both the west and south courses now sit unattended.

James Watson lives off the west course.

"It's a crying shame ... such a beautiful golf course we had, to close it down," Watson said.

Watson said he worries about his property's value.

"We paid a premium extra for the lot to be on the golf course and it's going to hurt the value of my home," he said.

Scroggins said he agrees.

"We're probably $125,000 down. We don't lose it till we sell it," he said.

Local 6 checked with Orlando Realtor Association to see the impact of closed golf courses on home sales.

Sabel Point closed in 2006. Single family homes sold for nearly $400,000 before the course closed. In 2011, prices dropped to $215,000.

Condos overlooking the course sold for $225,000 while the course was still open. In 2008, those same condos dropped to $60,000. In 2010, prices were lowest at $30,000.

Homeowners living in Rolling Hills said they fought to keep the same thing from happening to them when their course closed last June.

"We were ready to raise the funds and buy it," Laura Perry said. "The home developers who swooped in and purchased the course were more organized and have more power and more money."

"Their plan is to build 147 homes," Kit Bradshaw said. "We don't need 147 homes. We don't have the streets to handle it."

The golf course is zoned as "recreational" until 2019, so developers can't build on it unless the zoning is changed, but homeowners are fighting to keep it an open space.

"If we lose, we want to know that we did everything we could to save the property,"Bradshaw said.

Developer Alynne Cordray said homeowners' hands are really tied.

"They don't own that property, they own their property and somebody else owns that property," Cordray said.

But she said she does recommend checking the deed.

"See what kind of deed restrictions are associated with the lot that is right beside them and what they want to preserve, so they can look at how long that deed restriction might be in place, what are the limitations of use," Cordray said. 

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