Redevelopment Wrecks: West Palm Beach, Florida

West Palm Beach, Florida

In the 1980s, county officials decided to turn the Hillcrest neighborhood in West Palm Beach into a golf course.  Residents John and Wendy Zamecnik begged government officials to turn their neighborhood into a park instead, and let them and their neighbors keep their homes—but to no avail.  In 1987, the County set out to acquire 385 parcels of land.  But three families, including the Zamecniks, fought against the government’s land grab by refusing to sell.  In 1999, County Commissioners responded by authorizing the government to take the homes for a private golf course, even though Palm Beach County is home to more than 170 courses, including a city course just 2 miles down the road.  The family’s attorney argued that the golf course could be built around their home, and one plan by the developer even slated their home for the future residence of the golf course’s manager.[1]

Despite protest and objection, the County condemned their property, and the Zamecniks paid rent to live in their home before the government forced them out in 2002.  Unable to find a comparable house in the County, they packed up and moved to Maryville, Tenn.  In 2005, the deal for the golf course fell through.[2]

Finally, in December 2005, the County approved the sale of 68.3 acres of land in the old Hillcrest neighborhood to Palm Beach Atlantic University for $3.1 million.  The school plans to build ball fields on the land.[3]

[1]  Thomas R. Collins, “Evicted Homeowners Feel Betrayed Over Failed Project,”Palm Beach Post, March 15, 2005.

[2]  Ibid.

[3]  “County Commission,” Palm Beach Post, April 19, 2006, at 2B (Final Edition).