Save Club West has thrown in the towel.
Blaming apathy among Club West’s 2,550 households, the group’s leader told supporters in an email on Monday, March 6, that it has abandoned its effort to find homeowners who would invest between approximately $8,000 and $13,500 to buy the beleaguered course, restore it and operate it profitably.
“Although it is almost certain that the problem will get worse, the four of us are too disheartened to push on,” said Save Club West leader Jim Lindstrom, who has worked since July on a detailed plan for buying and operating the course. “For now, Save Club West is signing off.”
Lindstrom’s announcement followed the homeowners association board’s annual meeting March 2 at which Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio said he was still exploring ways to pay for a waterline that might deliver cheaper water to the course.
The Arizona Department of Transportation had announced two weeks ago that while it will install two concrete sleeves beneath the South Mountain Freeway for a pipeline, the state constitution’s gift clause prevented it from paying the estimated $1.5 million to $2 million waterline itself.
But Lindstrom said in his email that even DiCiccio admitted he had no ready solution to getting around the gift clause ban.
“This is the same thing the city told Save Club West last August – even though the city bears some responsibility for this problem,” Lindstrom told supporters. “When the golf course was originally designed, the developer spent millions to build a water reclamation facility to water the course, and the city agreed to operate the plant.
“After just 10 years, the city and the then-course owner, SunCor, abandoned the plant, citing high operating costs. At the meeting, DiCiccio downplayed the city's role by suggesting that the reclamation plant was only intended to be temporary, but the original 1988 agreement between the developer and the city was to remain in effect for 60 years.”
Lindstrom began the “buy Club West” effort after course owner Wilson Gee’s reduced irrigation, causing fairways to start browning and provoking a lawsuit by the HOA. The suit is asking state Superior Court to force Gee to restore it to a “first-class course.”
Gee said he cannot afford the $700,000 city water bill he gets annually for watering the course and said he had no alternative but to reduce irrigation.
He also has countersued the HOA, claiming it harmed his reputation and was interfering with his operation of the course.
Lindstrom and his fellow homeowners contended the HOA lawsuit would not result in a long-term fix to the course’s water problem. He had lined up experts who put together a plan that would cut that bill almost in half through xeriscaping and other water-conservation measures.
He noted that so far the HOA’s litigation has cost $84,000, “but the lawsuit is still in the discovery phase and costs will increase as it gears up for trial.
“Fortunately for now, the associations' insurer carrier is paying the costs to defend the association in the counterclaim, but they may not continue,” Lindstrom wrote.
Lindstrom had estimated he needed at least 300 homeowners to pitch in around $13,333 apiece to buy the course. As of Monday, only 110 had expressed interest, he said.
Moreover, Save Club West had run out of money to pay the consultants who helped put the purchase plan together.
“We shared one thing in common, a passion to protect our community jewel,” he wrote. “At first, we received overwhelming financial support and encouragement. Since last November, however, donations nearly dried up and we were forced to reduce our efforts to complete the job. In addition to donating literally hundreds of hours, we paid bills out of our own pockets. Now, faced with bills totaling $3,000 we cannot pay, we have no money to continue.”
Lindstrom noted that it could take years for the lawsuit to produce a result, and warned that Club West now faced a fate similar to that of the Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course, which Gee closed in 2013 and sold to a developer.
“The owner could convince the court that the golf course restrictions should not be enforced and ask for permission to re-purpose the land like the Lakes golf course or to operate a winter-only course,” he said.
Lindstrom also expressed bitterness toward the HOA board, recounting how members “made it clear they did not want to work with us.”
Nevertheless, Lindstrom said, “We honestly hope that the HOA board’s strategy will prevail.”
“We predict the problem will get worse,” he added. “This summer, the water will go off again, the course will turn brown and crunchy, more Bermuda grass will die, and leave larger and larger dirt patches.”
DiCiccio later on Monday posted a reply to Lindstrom's message on Facebook, stating that the Save Club West leader had minimize the significance of the ADOT agreement.
"Yes, ADOT said the original idea violated the gift clause, but that did not preclude other ideas which I believe could work for funding," DiCiccio said. "Remember, the water line idea works functionally, but the state could not fund it as we proposed. Yes this has been a ton of work from everyone, but we are making significant progress and yes we still only have a partial solution. But, we are continuing to push. Had we stopped when we first started our meetings months ago with ADOT we would be five steps back from today. I am confident we will get to the final solution for funding the water line, but it still requires more work which we have all committed to."