Pulte Group faced some difficult questions from the audience at the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce Public Policy meeting Friday, July 11, but overall the group said it’s making some progress getting consent from the neighborhood to develop the closed Lakes Golf Course.
Pulte has signed a memorandum of understanding to purchase the closed golf course. Its plan is to build about 250 single-family homes on the 104 acres, leaving 38 percent of the land open. To move forward with the plan, Pulte needs to get consent from at least 51 percent of homeowners in the area to change the deed restriction, which says the land must remain a golf course.
A large group of neighbors have formed Save the Lakes to fight any development from happening to the course, but Pulte officials say despite the Save the Lakes effort, they’ve gotten some positive response to their plan.
They recently sent out a mailer of their plan with a consent form for neighbors to sign. Without divulging any numbers, Mike Brilz, vice president of land development with Pulte, said the mailer exceeded their expectations.
The plan was presented to a crowd of about 60 people Friday at the Foothills Golf Course. The audience questioned what say the community will have if Pulte gets consent to change the deed restriction. Many in the audience seemed hesitant to agree to work with Pulte when the seller of the property, Wilson Gee and his partners, have not always been truthful with neighbors.
“He promised to save the wildlife,” said Susan Lind. “To us, you are a two-headed dragon. We can’t tell who is doing what. The first promise to be broken was the wildlife. He promised to remove the wildlife before draining the ponds. Instead they buried the wildlife. If this is what we can expect to continue to happen, it’s not going well off the bat.”
Brilz said the consent form Pulte has written is specific to the project company officials are presenting to the community right now. The form gives only Pulte the right to develop the land, says it will build only single-family homes with no more than 2.5 homes per acre of the property, states 38 percent will be left open, sets a minimum buffer of 75 feet between adjacent properties and does not remove the deed restriction from the Ahwatukee Country Club.
All specific details about lot sizes, exact placement of trails and fences and homeowners associations will be worked out during the zoning process with the city.
Pulte has been in business more than 60 years. Ahwatukee Foothills resident Larry Gardner said his home was built by Pulte, and he knows the company has a reputation of doing good work. He suggested that to get more support from neighbors, Pulte should consider giving a sum of money to homeowners along the course rather than donating $1 million to improvements for the country club.
“If you put $1 million toward the country club, that’s a slap in the face for all the homeowners,” he said. “Why not do a little reconciliation, give them some of that money. I’m more of a negotiator or mediator. I know what you guys do. You do good work. But that million dollars is not going in the right place.”
Brilz said it is possible Pulte might keep the lake closest to Lakeside Drive, if that’s what neighbors want. That area is needed for drainage, so even if it is not filled, it will be open space. He said Pulte needs to have many discussions with neighbors and the homeowners association in the area, but those discussions will have to come during the zoning process.
“It’s a community discussion,” Brilz said. “What does the community want? That’s a discussion we need to have.”
Pulte doesn’t have an exact timeline for the project. Officials hope to have consent from neighbors by the end of the year and approach the city’s rezoning process in 2015. If they keep at the current pace, Brilz said, they hope to be selling homes in 2017.
Save the Lakes has completed a feasibility study on the golf course. The group says the results are positive for their side. They have not released the full report to the public yet but plan to do that soon.
For more information on the Lakes project, Pulte has created a website, pulteahwatukee.com. There residents can view the plan, submit comments and sign the consent form.
For more information on Save the Lakes, visit savethelakes.weebly.com.