The True Life Companies is headed for the exit door from Ahwatukee as former owner Wilson Gee prepares tomorrow, Sept. 20, to foreclose on his $8.6 million note the developer signed more than two years ago in its ill-fated quest to build an “agrihood” on the site of the defunct Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course.
Unlike the last-minute move by the short-lived owner of the Club West Golf Course that stalled his foreclosure on a $1.3 million note by two weeks and has continued to leave uncertainty surrounding that course’s short-term future, Gee expects the Lakes trustee sale to proceed smoothly.
“Everything looks like a go,” Gee said. “I don’t expect any delays.”
If the foreclosure goes through as planned, it will mark an end to a nearly two-year long effort by True Life to persuade at least 51 percent of the approximate 5,400 Ahwatukee Lakes residents to agree to a change in the covenants, conditions and restrictions governing the 101-acre site’s use.
Using a variety of campaign tactics ranging from door-to-door visits to town halls, True Life had attempted to get residents’ buy-in for its plan to build 270 single and two-family homes and townhomes with a 5-acre farm as a focal point for the development. It also had proposed a café, private school, trails and other amenities for a project it had named Ahwatukee Farms.
Save the Lakes, a group of residents who want to see a restoration of the executive golf course hat Gee closed in 2013, waged an equally aggressive campaign against True Life.
While ownership of the site will officially change hands tomorrow, the battle over the course’s future is far from over.
Gee said he will continue to press his appeal from a Superior Court judge’s ruling earlier this year that requires the course’s restoration — a project that could cost anywhere between $6 million and $12 million, according to the widely varying estimates by Save the Lakes and True Life.
Superior Court Judge John Hannah had ruled two years ago that the CC&Rs required the site to be a golf course.
He reiterated that ruling after a trial held last October, then further ordered that the course be restored.
In addition to his appeal from that ruling, Gee said he also is picking up True Life’s other court fight aimed at a Maricopa County Assessors Office ruling that because the site is not a golf course, it is not entitled to a lower property tax rate.
That ruling — which could cost Gee hundreds of thousands of dollars — prompted True Life to sue and take advantage of the same CC&Rs it attacked. It said the CC&Rs dictated the site be a golf course, so it was entitled to the lower tax rate.
It is unclear how long the appeal of Hannah’s ruling could last, but Gee in an interview reiterated the site will never be a golf course again.
“If people don’t want to pay $1.3 million for a golf course, why would anyone think someone will pay $6 million?” he said, referring to the Club West note and the Save the Lakes’ estimate of what it would cost to restore Ahwatukee Lakes.
Meanwhile, Gee’s attorneys last week asked a federal bankruptcy judge to dismiss a request by the former Club West course owner, Inter Tribal Golf Association, to reinstate its bankruptcy case and essentially take the property away from Gee.
ITGA filed its bankruptcy petition the day before Gee was set to foreclose on the note signed by ITGA CEO Richard Breuninger Dec. 1, 2017.
That petition basically forced Gee to postpone the trustee sale for at least two weeks and posed the potential for an even longer delay — throwing into uncertainty the question of whether the Club West Course could be seeded and ready for golf this winter.
ITGA told the court that Gee had rushed to foreclose on the note and that there was a “new buyer” for the course.
“First he said he had a new investor, and then suddenly he said he had a new buyer,” Gee told AFN on Monday. “If there was a new buyer, why didn’t he just pay off the note? It’s not like I didn’t give him plenty of notice about the foreclosure and that I wasn’t going to extend the deadline for the trustee sale.”
In their petition to dismiss ITGA’s request for reinstatement, Gee’s attorneys last week said ITGA’s move was “unsupported by applicable law.”
“Case reinstatement here would be futile, as debtor (ITGA) lacks any assets to reorganize,” they argued, adding:
“Debtor’s attempts to justify relief can be summarized as neglect or incorrect application applicable non-bankruptcy law.”
They also said that the never-named “new owner” also knew of the foreclosure sale yet made no effort to simply pay off the note.
Meanwhile, Gee said he would eb meeting later this week with both Mike Hinz, president of the Club West HOA board, and Lloyd Melton, owner of the Biscuits restaurant in the Club West clubhouse.
While Biscuits currently is open only on the weekends, Gee said he hopes he and Melton can agree on the terms of a new lease. “I’d like him to stay,” Gee said.
Hinz said the HOA board will support Gee “in any way we can, including advocating with the city.”
While Gee has complained in the past about the high cost of using city potable water to irrigate the course, he told AFN the immediate question is the size of the deposit that the city Water Services Department will seek to turn on the water.
ITGA owes close to $300,000 for the water it used after seeding the course last fall, and through the late-February date when the city shut if off because he had become delinquent.
A Water Services spokeswoman said that while her department would not hold Gee responsible for that debt, it would seek a deposit.
“There are still a lot of things to work out,” Gee added. “Even with all the drama, you still have to go through the same boring process for running a business.”