Weston commission rejects condos at Weston Hills Country Club

Commissioners denied developer Lon Tabatchnick’s request to rezone part of the property

Lon Tabatchnick and the Weston Hills Country Club rendering
Lon Tabatchnick and the Weston Hills Country Club rendering

The Weston City Commission unanimously rejected a controversial condo development at the Weston Hills Country Club proposed by Lon Tabatchnick, the lead developer of the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort.

On Tuesday, city commissioners denied a proposed rezoning that would allow Tabatchnick’s Lojeta Group to build a four-story, 199-unit condo on 10.7 acres of the 320-acre country club property.

Opponents of the project, many of them wearing red T-shirts that read “No Rezoning,” packed the city commission’s meeting, which began on Monday and continued Tuesday evening to accommodate a torrent of public comments.

About 80 people spoke out against the proposed rezoning, criticizing the planned four-story condo as an oversized eyesore that would worsen traffic congestion, add to school overcrowding, lower nearby home values and lead to denser real estate development throughout Weston.

Technical objections included assertions that Tabatchnick’s proposal failed to meet the city’s criteria for approving a request for rezoning.

City staff had recommended that city commission approve it.

Tabatchnick drew criticism from the start. Opponents organized last year when he initially proposed a 274-unit rental apartment development at the Weston Hills Country Club.

So, he switched to a smaller, age-restricted condo development for buyers 55 and older. He had planned to complete a multimillion-dollar upgrade of two 18-hole golf courses and the clubhouse facilities at the country club before building a condo development.

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“People tell me I’m crazy,” Tabatchnick said during the meeting, citing a growing number of closed golf courses, including many converted to housing developments. “I’m the only developer in South Florida who’s trying to save a golf course.”

Fred Burton, president of Keep Weston Green, a group formed to stop the proposed condo development, criticized Tabatchnick as a developer with no experience in running a golf course.

“This golf course represents nothing more than a development opportunity,” Burton said.

Wilson Atkinson, an attorney for Tabatchnick, said improving the golf property would benefit owners of nearby homes, not just members of the country club. “If we don’t do something with the golf courses, the value of the abutting properties will go down,” Atkinson said.

But some Weston residents said the prospect of a condo building going up on the grounds of the Weston Hills Country Club has already lowered the value of nearby homes and tarnished Weston’s image as low-density, master-planned town.

Tabatchnick has a contract to buy the Weston Hills Country Club contingent upon city approval of his planned condominium there, which was called The Lodge.

He portrayed the country club as a troubled asset in need of a turnaround. “For the past 10 years, no capital improvements have been put into the club … There’s no [membership] initiation fee, and dues have fallen like a rock,” he said.

But opponents said Tabatchnick’s proposal in a neighborhood of townhouses and single-family homes was inconsistent with its surroundings.

“This is one of the worst examples of ‘spot zoning’ I’ve ever seen,” said Alex Muxo, who served 14 years as the city manager of Homestead before joining Huizenga Holdings. “The city should not be in the business of rezoning something to help a private business.”