Developer seeks permission to build new homes on Harbor Bay

Developer seeks permission to build new homes on Harbor Bay

Michele Ellson

Harbor Bay Isle Associates wants to build 80 new homes on the site of an existing fitness club and build a new club elsewhere. Rendering courtesy of Harbor Bay Isle Associates.

Harbor Bay Isle Associates and a related company that operates the Harbor Bay Club are asking the city’s permission to move the fitness club to a nine-acre site in the Harbor Bay Business Park and to build 80 luxury homes in its stead.

City Planner Andrew Thomas said he hopes to provide official notice of the city’s plans to prepare an environmental review – one of several steps in the review and approval process for the proposed projects – next week. After the notice is issued, residents will have 30 days to tell the city what potential impacts should be studied; a public meeting to discuss the scope of the review could come within 45 days.

The developer is seeking to build the homes in part to help retire the remaining debt on the roads and utilities that support nearly 3,000 existing homes on Harbor Bay Isle. And the developer’s reps are saying that construction of the homes will help finance a new and improved replacement for the existing, 35-year-old club.

“It will definitely be a better product,” C. Timothy Hoppen, general partner of Harbor Bay Isle Associates, said of the proposed club.

Plans include a new, two-story club building; a trio of pools and a children’s water play area; a dozen tennis courts; a basketball court and turf field; and outdoor café and picnic areas. The plans also show a future office building across the parking lot from the club.

The proposed homes would be surrounded by existing residential neighborhoods, a school and parkland, while the proposed club would sit across the street from the business park and border other homes in the Harbor Bay Isle development, Chinese Christian School and a day care center.

The proposal to build the homes on the nine-acre club site is the third proffered by Harbor Bay Isle Associates to construct additional homes in Harbor Bay Isle, a collection of neighborhoods that ring the edges of Bay Farm Island since 2007.

Harbor Bay Isle Associates’ representatives have maintained that their agreement with the city permits them to build an additional 227 homes, though a court ruled in 2007 that the city was only required to consider the developer’s proposals. They’re saying they won’t ask to build any more new homes if this application is approved.

The developer originally sought to build 104 homes on the North Loop Road property where it now wishes to move the fitness club and, when the Planning Board denied the request, explored the possibility of giving the city the North Loop property in exchange for cash and the Mif Albright golf course – a proposal the City Council voted down amid loud protests from golfers and Harbor Bay Isle residents.

Some of those same residents have already geared up to oppose the developer’s new proposal, saying they don’t want the club to move and that they are fearful the homes will generate more peak hour traffic than the club does, impacting the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists and students at Amelia Earhart Elementary School, which is down the street from the club. Already, three of Harbor Bay Isle’s 20 homeowners associations have declared their opposition to the proposal.

“We don’t think it makes sense to put 80 homes at the end of Packet Landing (Road),” said Tim Coffey, a Centre Court resident who said his opposition to the developer’s proposal has more than 600 supporters. And he said the club’s location was a selling point for residents who bought in his neighborhood, which has its own special gate to access it.

Hoppen said he’d let the developer’s applications speak for themselves, and that the public will have several chances to offer their views on the project to city leaders. He said the environmental review will include a traffic study conducted by a third party firm hired by the city, and not his company. A prior study offered by the developer for the Mif swap proposal said new homes there would have increased traffic by 1 percent, though opponents disputed whether the number was accurate.

“We have to demonstrate the impacts, and the non-significance of these impacts,” Hoppen said. “We have a team of professionals, and the city does, to work on this.”

The developer’s reps also said that whatever happens, they aren’t under any obligation to maintain the club at its existing location.

The applications are available on the city’s website, and the club has posted a frequently asked questions document on its website; opponents have gathered online here.


Submitted by Robert T. Sullwold on Tue, Sep 3, 2013

Readers can find the definitive legal analysis of Mr. Cowan's "rights" to build additional houses at Harbor Bay here: