“Save Club West” leader Jim Lindstrom says that Phoenix officials have a “moral responsibility” to help Club West homeowners resolve the water-price problem that threatens their community golf course, and laments that no city leader has stepped forward to help them.
Lindstrom and other homeowners are upset that Mayor Greg Stanton stops at calling their problem “awkward,” and that Councilman Sal DiCicicio, who represents Ahwatukee, is focusing on the bigger problem of preserving open space in Ahwatukee.
“Club West has a real problem today,” Lindstrom said. “Save Club West, a homeowners not-for-profit association, is developing a plan to reconfigure the golf course to be profitable and purchase it. This is an enormous undertaking. Without cooperation from the city of Phoenix and the HOA, our efforts will be much more difficult.”
Golf-course owner Wilson Gee is forced to use potable city water to irrigate the course because he has no other source of water, such as reclaimed water, which generally costs a fraction of drinking water.
Gee says that he can’t afford the $700,000 annual water bill and has been cutting back on watering the course, prompting a lawsuit by the Club West Homeowners Association board. The board says the water cutback is ruining the course and that Gee is violating his land-use agreement with the HOA.
Lindstrom, who has organized nearly 700 of the HOA’s approximately 2,500 homeowners, said many Club West residents are “livid” after learning that past city officials set them on a path to high water rates without informing those who were buying houses in Club West.
“The city completely changed the rules of the game,” Lindstrom said. “When we put this out to the homeowners, they were livid. You have city officials going around saying Wilson Gee is the devil, and all that it is is a diversion.”
The homeowners’ ire was piqued by Lindstrom’s discovery of an agreement that Phoenix signed in the mid 1980s with the former Del Webb Development Company, when it was building Club West, to provide reclaimed water from a plant that the developer would build.
“After just 12 years, the city decided to abandon the plant, citing high operating costs,” Lindstrom said. “So far, we have not discovered what, if anything, the city offered to replace the water at an economical price. So basically, the city changed the ground rules and left the golf course high and dry in the early 2000s.”
Lindstrom said the city apparently never told homeowners about the water-sourcing problems from 2002 to 2013, or that it was substituting more expensive potable water for reclaimed water to the golf course.
“The homeowners at Club West purchased homes with the understanding that the focal point for the community, the golf course, would be operated and maintained,” Lindstrom said. “Surely the city knew that their decisions to shut the reclamation plant down would have enormous impact on the owner of the golf course. Surely, Wilson Gee knew about these agreements when he purchased the course in December 2009.”
Gee has said that he and the city had an agreement, in which he would pay a discounted rate for potable water through 2015, but that the city abruptly terminated the arrangement.
“This is no different than an office building or hospital being approved and constructed and after just 25 years, the city decides to discontinue the sewer system to the buildings,” Lindstrom said.
Save Club West also has been at odds with the HOA board, arguing that its lawsuit does not resolve the problem of finding a less-expensive source of water.
Lindstrom said he believes that there is a solution that might involve running a line from a well on the southern side of the South Mountain Freeway path. He was scheduled to meet with Arizona Department of Transportation officials this week to discuss the plan. The state owns the right-of-way the pipeline would cross.
Finding cheaper water also would help Save Club West develop a plan for homeowners to buy the golf course from Gee and operate in a more profitable manner, Lindstrom said.
A golf course analyst is developing a study of what it would cost to buy and run the course, which Gee is selling for about $1.9 million.
“We received input from many homeowners telling us that a better way to solve the golf-course problem is to find alternative sources for water and a new owner,” Lindstrom said.
“About 10 years ago, Club West was voted one of the top 20 public courses in the state,” Lindstrom added. “Hard to realize that today.”
“We made an initial effort to seek out homeowners who could be interested to become fractional owners of the golf course under the right circumstances,” he said. “So far, we have 12 names.”
Lindstrom said city officials must become involved in the homeowners’ effort now.
Although overseeding is completed and the course was to reopen this week, the group must complete its planning by the end of the year and try to implement the plan before hot weather returns next year.
“We’re going to need cooperation from the city one way or the other: If the decision is made to stay on city water, this community needs a long-term commitment to work with us on discounted rates,” he said. “If the decision is to find ground water, we will need the city’s help to get it.”