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The Owners of the Westin Diplomat Suffer Setback to Redevelop their
 Underused Golf Course in Hallandale Beach by Adding
 a Hotel and 1,000 Residences
By Scott Wyman, Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

March 24, 2010 - --The owners of the Diplomat suffered a setback Tuesday in plans to redevelop their underused golf course in Hallandale Beach by adding a hotel and almost 1,000 residences.

The project, one of the largest developments proposed locally during the recession, failed to win enough support from Broward County commissioners for a needed zoning change.

Commissioners largely favored saving the golf course and building a hotel, but were divided over the extensive residential construction.

Tuesday's commission meeting ended in a 4-4 tie.

Developers plan to try again in mid-April, when all nine commissioners are expected to be present.

"The hotel is a key component, but the whole project needs to be done as one in order to be feasible," said Mark Kukulski, general manager of the Westin Diplomat as well as the Diplomat Golf Resort & Spa.

At a cost of at least $500 million, the plans for the Diplomat Golf Resort & Spa include a 500-room resort hotel, 950 residences and 3,000 square feet of commercial space around the 18-hole golf course.

Along with the Westin Diplomat, the resort is owned by the Plumbers & Pipefitters National Pension Fund. The resort serves mainly as an overflow for the beachside Westin Diplomat and has only 60 hotel rooms.

Diplomat executives have said that slowing demand for golf and the limited number of hotel and residential units directly linked to the resort have made it increasingly less profitable and in need of redevelopment.

Nearby residents, though, have complained the project would increase traffic and overshadow their homes with a high-rise condo building.

They also fear the new residences will glut a weak real estate market since more than 2,000 other units have been approved but not yet built in Hallandale Beach.

In hopes of winning commission support, Diplomat executives compromised on the condo part of the project shortly before Tuesday's meeting. They initially wanted a 27-story condo building on the northern edge of the property but scaled it back to five stories.

Mayor Ken Keechl and Commissioners Lois Wexler, Suzanne Gunzburger and Kristin Jacobs voted against the project. Commissioners Diana Wasserman-Rubin, John Rodstrom, Stacy Ritter and Al Jones favored it. Commissioner Ilene Lieberman was absent.

Scott Wyman can be reached at swyman@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4511.

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Copyright (c) 2010, Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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