Pulte Group Inc. may be interested in purchasing the Lakes Golf Course in Ahwatukee, though what would happen from there remains unclear.
“We are currently in escrow, but continue to evaluate the feasibility of this project,” said Jacque Petroulakis of PulteGroup Corporate Communications, in a statement. “Before meeting with members of the community, we must complete an internal redevelopment plan and review the regulatory compliance obligations involved. We hope to know more within the next 60 to 90 days.”
The current owner of the course, Wilson Gee of Ahwatukee Golf Properties, has expressed interest in building apartments on half of the course but deed restrictions, zoning regulations, and complaints from neighbors have kept him from developing the land.
The golf course was closed for business in May after Gee said the course had not been making money.
Terry Duggan, president of Ahwatukee Golf Properties said Gee is trying to sell the course to a developer, but that there is no official sale to Pulte yet.
“That’s the only way you’re going to sell it,” he said. “It will never be a golf course again. The golf industry is in the tank. We lost 150 courses in the U.S. and they say 200 this year. In Arizona we lost four courses this summer and they think maybe 20 by the end of this year. The economy is horrible.”
This week Ahwatukee Golf Properties placed fences around the property. Duggan said they’ve seen several people walking on the course and it is a liability issue now that the course is closed and there’s no staff at the property.
“We can’t have people out there walking around,” he said. “If someone fell in the lake and drowned we’d have a major issue on our hands. We’ve got to protect our liability. That’s why the owner put it up.”
Neighbors have complained about the barbed-wire fence because it has made the golf course even less attractive since it closed. Homeowners paid an extra premium to live on the course and now their view is being blocked.
“The fence is 10 yards, tops, from my door,” said Kendall Radabaugh, who lives in the Vista Sureno apartments. “It’s the exact opposite of what we are paying for, which is a nice, relaxing, scenic view. It has been turned into a prison-style barbed-wire fence with absolutely no notification or explanation for how long it might be there or why it’s there… Even before the fence it has become an eyesore from the lack of upkeep on the golf course.”
The fence was topped with barbed-wire, but City Councilman Sal DiCiccio said the city will be ordering the owner to take the barbed-wire down. DiCiccio’s office is also investigating how close the fence can be to 44th Street, where many people walk and will now be forced to walk in the street. The city may not be able to stop the owners from building a fence around the entire property, though.
“He has a right to put up the fence, but I think it’s just a very disrespectful thing for our community,” DiCiccio said. “They did it unannounced. No one in our office knew about it. We’ve put in a request for them to take the fence down. He can say it’s for safety, but realistically it shouldn’t happen.”
DiCiccio has said he will not approve any zoning changes for the golf course without approval from the neighbors. Neighbors in the area have formed their own group, Save the Lakes Inc., which is fighting to keep the golf course a golf course. Save the Lakes will have its annual meeting in January.
“I will not do anything without the neighbor’s approval,” DiCiccio said. “They are in charge of this process.”
DiCiccio said he has given the board of Save the Lakes a few options of what to do next and is waiting to hear back from them. He’s also trying to set up a meeting with Pulte to better understand their motives.