TAMPA, Fla. — The future of a now-permanently closed Pebble Creek Golf Club in New Tampa is pending.
In the meantime, friction between its owner and an opposing neighbor is being decided in court.
On Wednesday, a judge heard arguments from the legal team of William Place and Ace Golf, Inc. and the defendant, Leslie Green. Plaintiffs are suing Green over claims of defamation and tortious interference in their business endeavors, according to the complaint.
"This is is the exact type of abuse of the legal system," Green said. "It is meant to silence me and fears being sued as well."
A judge did not make a ruling, stating he needs more time to look at both arguments.
Neighbors packed the courtroom wearing red "Save Pebble Creek" T-shirts in solidarity with Green. Some have displayed signs by the neighborhood entrances to object any rezoning.
The defense aimed to have the lawsuit dismissed arguing Place's lawsuit is an example of a SLAPP suit A.K.A. strategic lawsuit against public participation.
Neighbors of the "Save Pebble Creek" group have cited concerns with rezoning including losing green space and property value, impact on the environment, and congestion among others.
"We're worried about how that's going to affect our quality of life," Green said. "I feel like the developers are going to come in change our way of life negatively."
In the complaint, plaintiffs accuse Green of launching a "campaign of harassment and dissemination of blatant falsehoods through multiple channels," including its Facebook group.
Prior, Place applied for a brownfield application citing environmental remediation but blames the denial due to targeted community opposition, according to the lawsuit.
The golf club closed in 2021 after membership decreased and needs for more than $1 million worth of significant capital investments, according to the complaint.
Regardless, neighbors like Jennifer Solano want to maintain the land as is.
"This is a sacred little neighborhood we have here," Solano said. "There's plenty of undeveloped land that they can develop."