Michele Ellson

Updated at 8:44 p.m. Tuesday, April 16

Harbor Bay developer Harbor Bay Isle Associates wants to construct 80 new homes where the Harbor Bay Club now stands and to build a new fitness center on land the company owns on North Loop Road, a representative announced to the City Council on Tuesday.

"The courts have determined that Harbor Bay Isle Associates has the indisputable right to build an additional 227 units. Harbor Bay Isle Associates is agreeing to develop only 80 of the remaining 227 units as its final residential development for Harbor Bay Isle, which represents a 65 percent reduction and ceding 147 homes to which it’s entitled," Kathy Moehring, director of community affairs for The Harbor Bay Group, read from a letter from Harbor Bay Isle president C. Timothy Hoppen to the council.

Harbor Bay Isle founder Ron Cowan sued the city in 2007, claiming his development agreement for Harbor Bay entitled him to build the additional homes. In a 2011 interview, Cowan said that a later settlement guaranteed him the right to build the homes, though minutes from the 2007 meeting where the settlement was discussed said it didn’t commit the council to future action.

After the Planning Board turned down Harbor Bay's proposal to build 104 homes on the North Loop property, in 2008, Cowan said city staffers approached him about swapping it for the Mif Albright golf course – a plan the company embraced but the City Council ultimately rejected.

Cowan went public with the swap proposal in 2011, drawing the wrath of golfers who wanted to preserve the nine-hole Mif Albright course and Bay Farm Island residents who feared the traffic new development could create. In March 2012 the City Council unanimously killed the deal, which by then had Harbor Bay Isle offering $8 million and the North Loop property in exchange for the right to build 130 homes on the Mif. City Manager John Russo had favored the plan, which spurred a successful ballot measure requiring similar deals to be put up for a public vote.

Moehring said building a new club on the North Loop property is expected to take two years between design, permitting and construction, and that the club would remain at its existing Packet Landing Road location while construction is underway. The 35-year-old club would be torn down once the new club is finished, she said, and homes built in its stead.

The proposal for the new club, which would be built between a housing development and the Harbor Bay Business Park, Chinese Christian School and a child care center, bills it as an improvement on the original that would accommodate new programs that members expect. A frequently asked questions document for members says design plans for the club are "still preliminary" and that the club's management will be surveying members to fine-tune them, but that multiple pools, bigger locker rooms, more and bigger exercise spaces and more parking are included in the draft plans.

Ground on the 917-acre Harbor Bay development was first broken in 1978. The Bay Farm Island development now includes a business park and nearly 3,000 homes.

Council members didn't comment on Moehring's announcement Tuesday, though former councilman Doug deHaan, who attended the meeting to talk about the safety of the Posey and Webster tubes, offered a note of support for the proposal. DeHaan had opposed the golf course swap plan.

"I just heard some news about Harbor Bay. And I welcome that news," deHaan said. "That could have saved us quite a few years of effort."


Jon Spangler's picture
Submitted by Jon Spangler on Tue, Apr 16, 2013

I did not see or hear the announcement but I am skeptical that the often windier and foggier Harbor Bay Business Park site will be as pleasant a place for an open-air pool as the current site is.

I also wonder how accessible the new site will be via transit, bike, or other non-automobile means, with Bay Farm Island's minimal transit service and no on-street bike lanes on Island Drive.

Finally, Doug deHaan is correct: had the developer originally proposed this new athletic club facility for the business park site on North Loop Road the first time around instead of the infamous Mif Albright "swap," we could have saved many, many hours of attending public meetings over several years--or at least argued about something worth serious discussion...