The attorney for Ahwatukee Lakes homeowners who prevailed in their court fight against The True Life Companies has asked a judge to appoint a special master who would oversee the restoration of the defunct golf course by November 2019 at an estimated cost of around $6 million.
Attorney Tim Barnes this week gave Superior Court Judge John R. Hannah a proposed order that would name Kip Wolfe, vice president of golf operations for Pro Turf International, the special master and set a rigorous schedule for True Life to follow in restoring the 101-acre site.
True Life has until Feb. 8 to respond to Barnes’ detailed proposal, which includes Wolfe’s observations of the current condition of the course and what work he thinks might be necessary to restore it.
Former owner Wilson Gee closed the course in 2013 and True Life bought it two years later with an eye toward building around 270 single and duplex houses. It proposed a so-called agrihood where a five-acre farm would be the focal point of the subdivision and that would include a private school, cafe and other amenities.
When it could not get enough homeowners to approve a change in the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions requiring the site to remain a golf course, True Life unsuccessfully tried to persuade Hannah to toss that requirement and said it would built a “fun” course if it could still build the homes.
If it now can’t persuade Hannah to either reverse his ruling or reject Barnes’ latest submission, True Life can appeal the case to a higher state court, agree to Barnes’ terms or walk away from the site by putting it into bankruptcy.
True Life already has said restoring an 18-hole executive golf course on the site would never be profitable.
Wolfe’s ballpark estimate that it would cost between $5 million and $6 million is well under half the $14.1 million price tag that True Life’s consultant put on restoring the course.
Wolfe, whose firm is a golf course construction and renovation company, said in, a sworn affidavit to the judge that last July he “performed an extensive walk throughout the golf course to evaluate its then current condition.”
The Las Vegas resident, who has been in the golf industry since 1981, said he would serve as a special master overseeing the course’s restoration at a cost of $180 an hour and that he had neither any prejudice against True Life nor was familiar with the facts of the dispute in the court case.
“The basic core of the course is still intact,” Wolfe said in one of the documents submitted to the judge. “Obvious items will need to be constructed: clubhouse with cart storage and a maintenance building.”
He also said that “much of the existing cart path is in place but some of the water-crossing bridges will need to be rebuilt.”
He indicated that one of the great unknowns involved the water delivery system and virtually anything having to do with water, including the lakes, transfer stations and reservoirs.
“Most everything is missing in the pump station building, and as a result, a new pump station and more secure structure will need to be built,” Wolfe wrote. “The lakes that would need to remain would need to be relined with a PVC liner.”
Wolfe said replacing the entire irrigation system may be necessary and said the course itself “needs to have some feature shaping, bunker renovation, overall grassing and landscaping.”
He estimated the entire project would take between 14 and 18 months.
Barnes’ proposed restoration schedule sets out a timeline for undertaking all this work, and he suggests it begin in May with construction of the clubhouse, cart storage and maintenance buildings all occurring between July and September of next year.
He also asks Hannah to order True Life to pay unspecific attorney fees for his work as well as monetary damages to Linda Swain and Eileen Breslin, the two Ahwatukee Lakes residents who actually sued for the course’s restoration.
Barnes also asked Hannah to craft his order in a way that would require any new owner to follow the same restoration project and impose sanctions against True Life or any subsequent owner if they fail to complete it.
Under Barnes’ proposed plan for monitoring the restoration project, Wolfe would submit regular project updates and have the authority to review and approve any modifications to the initial plan as work proceeded.
The course owner also could ask the court to referee any disputes involving the work that may arise with Wolfe.
Given the schedule he has already set out for True Life’s response as well as Barnes’ counter to that response, Hannah could issue a final order as early as March.
But that would then trigger a time period when True Life could appeal his rulings – a matter that could take months to resolve.
Opponents of True Life had challenge the estimate of the work and cost that the company submitted last year.
Beyond the cost of restoration, True Life also has asserted that there is nothing to suggest that the course would attract enough golfers to make a profit for years, if ever.