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Carillon residents take St. Petersburg to court over Topgolf

Margie Manning

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Topgolf in Roseville, California is similar to the planned Carillon project, officials said. Architectural Photography by Michael Baxter, Baxter Imaging LLC

A group of Carillon residents has gone to court to stop the driving range and restaurant planned by Topgolf Entertainment Group.

In a complaint filed by Concerned Citizens of Carillon LLC against the City of St. Petersburg, the citizens’ group said its members would be “irreparably harmed” by the project. It is asking a Pinellas County Circuit Court judge to issue a permanent injunction prohibiting the city from allowing the development.

The group said the city improperly approved the project earlier this year without public input.

The complaint was filed Oct. 30 in Pinellas County Circuit Court. The City has not yet received a copy of the complaint, according to a spokesman, so it has not had a chance to review it, and has no comment.

A request to Topgolf for comment was pending return.

Topgolf  is planning a 67,000-square-foot building and about 450 parking spaces on 12 acres. It would be the second Topgolf facility in the Tampa-St. Pete area. A Topgolf opened in Brandon in 2014. Topgolf officials have said the St. Petersburg site would be different than the Brandon site, with a focus on family-friendly activities and significant improvements to lighting and sound systems to minimize the impact on people who live nearby,

On Sept. 30, Topgolf executives met with about 100 Carillon residents at a standing-room only meeting at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park. As St. Pete Catalyst reported exclusively at that time, most of the residents at that meeting said they were opposed to the project and asked why Topgolf, a Dallas-based company with more than 50 locations across the U.S. and internationally, wanted to build its St. Petersburg venue at Fountain Parkway and Carillon Parkway. The site is across the street from residential developments Back Bay at Carillon and Saxony Place.

The manager of Concerned Citizens of Carillon, Jason Liu, lives on Saxony Boulevard. He is the only plaintiff identified in the complaint; the names of the other 13 plaintiffs are redacted.

According to the complaint filed by Concerned Citizens, Western Reserve Life Insurance, part of insurance giant Aegon, filed a plan in 2001 for what is now the proposed Topgolf site. That site plan, approved by the city, called for construction of a 250,00-square-foot office building.

Western Reserve Life moved to extend the site plan in 2012, but the Concerned Citizens group said it couldn’t determine that request had been approved.

In February 2019, Western Reserve asked to modify the plan to build an outdoor recreational destination with adjoining restaurant. The company sought an administrative approval of its application, which waives the notice and public hearing requirements typically required on an application to modify a site plan, the complaint said. The administrative approval was granted in May, after the city determined the 2019 application was only a “minor” modification of the site plan, the complaint said.

The citizens group said the city Development Review Commission’s decision to administratively waive notice and public hearing exceeded its delegated powers.

“Modifying the use of the site as a Top Golf [sic] Facility is inconsistent [with] the basic intent of the originally approved site plan (office space),” the complaint said. It said it also involves a change in use under city code, and and improperly deems the Top Golf Facility as an “accessory use” to the Carillon Business Park.

The property, which remains vacant, was sold in June for $11 million to FL St. Petersburg Carillon LLC and PI Commercial Properties LLC in Greenville, South Carolina, Pinellas County property records said.

In addition to asking for an injunction to block the project, Concerned Citizens of Carillon is asking a judge to find the City in violation of the public records act, because it failed to provide specific documents requested in six separate requests.

Bush Ross, a law firm in Tampa, represents Concerned Citizens of Carillon.

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