The lakes on the Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course will be drained this week and animals moved to another site, according to a public letter from golf course owner Wilson Gee.
Gee’s letter was an apology to the community that the course failed, but said due to poor economics, legal liability, and Phoenix’s impending city ordinance on fencing, draining the lakes was the only option.
“No entrepreneur wants to see a business fail, even more so when that business is a labor of love,” Gee said. “Golf has been my passion for more than four decades, and as the owner of four Arizona courses, the highly publicized failure of one of them — the Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Club — bothers me, as I know it bothers the homeowners closest to the course.”
Gee apologized to the community for not giving some warning before putting a fence around the closed course.
“The fence we put up last fall created hard feelings in the community,” he said. “Though our intention was to protect neighbors and avoid insurance liabilities, what happened ultimately made a tough situation for homeowners near the property worse. For not notifying the community ahead of time, I apologize.
“In an effort to avoid this mistake again, I wanted to let you know we will begin to drain the lakes this week as well as remove the fence due to the impending city ordinance on fencing. As we do so, we will be moving the turtles and other habitat from this property to the Ahwatukee Country Club.”
The lakes on the course were drying up at one point after the closure. When neighbors complained about the smell and the dying animals, Gee agreed to pay to keep the lakes filled temporarily.
The letter also said since purchasing the course in 2006 tee times have plummeted by half along with fees the company has been able to charge.
Gee is currently trying to sell the golf course to Pulte Homes. Pulte has announced plans to build 250 homes on the land.
“Selling the property is not a business decision my partners and I have taken lightly,” Gee wrote. “Our partnership has only owned and operated golf courses. This will be only the second time we have sold a golf course in the last 23 years. We chose Pulte Homes, over commercial, apartment and higher single-family residential developers because they stood out as the company we believe best to end the instability and who would do their best to satisfy the competing needs of the neighbors adjacent to the former golf course.”
Gee’s letter does mention the possibility of Ahwatukee Board of Management (ABM) purchasing the course by charging each homeowner in the neighborhood a special assessment. ABM does not plan on purchasing the course. The board recently voted not to conduct a survey of homeowners to get their opinion on the idea.
Dave Harp, who lives on the course, said according to Gee’s letter he wants to make close to $8 million off the sale of The Lakes. That’s more than he paid for all the courses he has purchased in Ahwatukee Foothills.
“He’s asking the residents to change the CC&Rs to allow him to recover his money,” Harp said. “He’s then left with four golf courses with no capital investment... Everybody in Ahwatukee loses and he comes out with a profit and four golf courses, which he can start doing whatever he wants with.”
Pulte is doing due diligence on the project right now. They just completed an over-the-phone poll of neighbors.
“Pulte engaged a third party to survey Ahwatukee homeowners in an effort to identify some of their thoughts regarding the former Ahwatukee Lakes golf property and our plans to build a vibrant community of 250 high-quality, single family homes,” said Jacque Petroulakis, spokesperson for Pulte. “This internal survey was our initial step in our outreach efforts and we look forward to additional opportunities to discuss our plans with more residents.”
Several members of Save the Lakes, a neighborhood group trying to keep the course from being developed, received the call and say the survey was not meant to gather information, but to spread misinformation.
“The Ahwatukee poll is a battery of lengthy, misleading questions about Pulte’s plan to build on the Lakes Golf Course, which a majority of residents oppose,” said Linda Swain, treasurer of Save the Lakes. “The sole purpose of the MDC/VuPoint poll appears to be to mislead the public to amend the deed restrictions that preclude Pulte from building. Such biased advocacy polling violates the ethical standards of the polling profession and insults the intelligence of the homeowners.”
Pulte said they’ve been meeting with small groups of homeowners in the area to talk about their proposed project. To move forward Pulte would need to get approval from 51 percent of the more than 5,200 homeowners within Ahwatukee Board of Management to amend the deed restriction on the land. That deed restriction says that the course must remain a golf course.