Madison Green Pitches Golf Lodge Concept, But Neighbors Wary

Madison Green Country Club owner Todd Schoenwetter (standing left) addresses the crowd at the June 18 meeting at the club.

Citing rising costs and flat revenues, the owners of the Madison Green Country Club went to the community last week and asked for support to build a 108-room “golf lodge” that they say will make operating the financially strapped course more economically viable well into the future.

According to country club officials, in about five years, the restrictive covenants requiring the property to be used as a golf course will expire, and without an additional stream of revenue, they will have to explore alternatives.

At a public meeting Tuesday, June 18 at the country club’s restaurant, an overflow crowd of about 200 residents listened to the owner’s team explain the project.

Consultant Sharon Merchant welcomed the residents and directed the attendees to visit, which explains the project. She introduced Madison Green Country Club owner Todd Schoenwetter, Golf Director Scott Stowell and planning consultants from the firm of Schmidt Nichols.

Schoenwetter explained that 15 years ago, when he bought the course, annual operating expenses were about $580,000. Now those expenses are about $1.3 million. Meanwhile, revenues have been flat for years, with about 40,000 rounds played, many discounted or given to charity. The course can only demand a $70 green fee during winter months, business is slower, and play is discounted during long summers, he added.

“We are in competition with subsidized municipal courses that don’t have to make money,” Schoenwetter said, adding that the course has tried to attract tournaments, but, “Tours want a driving range on land. Ours is part of the 40 acres of the course that are water hazard. We don’t own the lakes and don’t have permission to modify them.”

Schoenwetter explained that the best solution to maintain golf at Madison Green decades into the future is by allowing them to build the 108-room “golf lodge” in partnership with Marriott. Preliminary plans are to build a SpringHill Suites, a three-star Marriott brand that Schoenwetter described as “upscale mid-level.”

The team described how the $22 million project would benefit the community. The principal benefit would ensure the successful operation of a golf course, with the owner offering to negotiate extending the restrictive covenant, if the hotel is approved. The project web site contains letters from Realtors and others claiming that the project will raise property values.

An overflow crowd of more than 200 energized residents showed up at the country club’s public meeting. However, the venue was too small for the crowd, acoustics were poor, the air-conditioning struggled to keep up and tempers soared.

Typical of comments were those of Madison Green resident Brandon Poe, who wasn’t sympathetic to the owner’s need for more revenues. “If they can’t do this meeting right, if they can’t maintain the golf course right, then I simply don’t trust them to do a hotel in my backyard right,” he said.

Community reaction was almost unanimously against the idea. Resident reaction was often “not in my backyard” in a literal sense. Golfer after golfer complained how the course is poorly maintained.

While the owners described the proposed hotel as “more upscale than anything currently in the western communities,” several residents challenged whether SpringHill Suites is upscale enough.

Some residents seemed open minded. Cruz Rendon, a business owner and Madison Green resident, said, “I don’t like to pre-judge. I came out to learn for myself what this is all about.” The following day, she added, “The meeting went past 8 p.m. I left around 8:20 when people were still arguing. Nothing was really resolved, even though the owner took a lot of questions.”

The proposed project is in its earliest phases. The first step is changing the village code to allow for “golf lodges” in zoning language.

“The golf course owner applied to change the village zoning code to allow 120 hotel rooms, i.e., golf lodge to golf courses,” Village Manager Ray Liggins said. “Staff reviewed his request and provided comments. He has not responded to staff comments. When the application is complete and certified by the planning director, it will be sent to the Planning & Zoning Commission with a recommendation, then to the Royal Palm Beach Village Council with a recommendation from the board and staff. If the council denies the request, the application ends. If the council approves the request, the property owner would need to apply for a zoning change and site plan change to his property to accommodate the hotel.”

The homeowners’ association at Madison Green has not yet taken a position on the project. A spokesperson for the HOA told the Town-Crier, “The majority of our community, along with the board, has expressed significant concerns about the implications of situating a hotel within a single-family residential area. We are too early in this process and lack sufficient information to determine this at this time. The initial meeting allowed us to hear the perspectives of both the residents and the owner. We recognize the value that the golf course brings to our community and are committed to exploring all options that enhance its success while addressing residents’ concerns. We aim to find a solution that benefits all parties involved that ensures the continued prosperity and harmony of our community.”

When asked about their reaction to the Madison Green meeting, a project spokesperson said, “Todd and his team were thrilled to have so many interested neighbors attend. Our aim was to provide accurate project information and listen to our neighbors. Our end goal is to earn the support of the majority and provide a wonderful amenity. Todd thought it was important to make the community aware of his limited options. We hope the text amendment passes.”

The HOA urged its members to be heard by attending the June 20 regularly scheduled council meeting, even though the item was not on the agenda. A standing-room-only crowd of 75 Madison Green residents showed up, and 64 filled out official comment cards asking to speak.

Village officials remarked later that it was the largest crowd for a non-agenda item that they could remember.

Michael Axelberd was the first resident to speak. He laid out his objections to the project. “We want the owner and the golf course to succeed, but my concerns include impact on property values and the potential for increased noise and light pollution that threatens our quality of life.”

He then went on to complain about the poor condition of the course and challenged how the hotel might eventually fail, making the situation worse.

While 64 residents were ready to speak, Mayor Fred Pinto streamlined the proceedings by asking for a show of hands, asking if anyone wanted to speak in favor. No residents volunteered, every resident at the meeting raised hands in opposition.

After a few more speakers against, Pinto noted that, “The owners came and met individually with each member of the council. I told them that they need to win over the support of the community, and I warned them that if the community came out against them… then this project is dead in the water. We hear you loud and clear.”

Asked about his reaction to the two meetings and Pinto’s comments, Schoenwetter said in a statement, “We are confident that we will have both residential and business support for the golf lodge/hotel for the long-term viability of the golf course. There are only a few years left on the requirement that the Madison Green Country Club must remain a golf course. It is our fervent hope that the community will choose to support our vision, enabling us to continue, and thereby enhance the golf course.”


  1. Good article, all major points were covered. I spoke with the reporter at the Council meeting. Thanks for writing about this issue.

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