Owner Wilson Gee plans to keep working to restore the Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course despite a new blistering claim by two homeowners’ lawyer that he already is violating the court order to do it.
Attorney Tim Barnes, who has waged the seven-year court fight with Gee on behalf of Linda Swain and Eileen Breslin, last week asked Superior Court Judge Theodore Campagnolo to levy a $500,000 penalty on Gee for failing to meet the first of three restoration deadlines he set last fall.
Barnes accused Gee of “only doing as little as possible to restore the golf course with a continued eye to wearing out the community in hopes of perhaps someday developing a portion of the golf.”
“At every turn, plaintiffs’ have been met by Wilson Gee with a variation on the same theme – follow the path of doing as little as possible to meet the requirements of” the course’s land use regulations and court orders,” Barnes wrote, adding his "spend the bare minimum seat-of-the-pants’ restoration of the Lakes Golf Course is on brazen display.”
Under Campagnolo’s deadlines, Gee must have the 18-hole course open for business by September 2022.
And while Gee has pledged to open it a year ahead of that deadline, Barnes last week accused him of violating Campagnolo’s order by “not planning to restore an 18-hole executive golf course, confirming with the City of Phoenix if it needs a grading permit and by not filling all lakes on the Lakes Golf Course.”
Gee told AFN “I have no understanding whatsoever” of Barnes’ complaint and that he is continuing the work.
No hearing date has been set yet on Barnes’ contempt request but Campagnolo set a date for a conference call later this month to discuss a hearing schedule with the lawyers.
While Gee asserts the course will have 18 – and possibly 19 – holes, Barnes alleges that his plan does not meet the specifications of an executive golf course.
The petition states that ALCR is approaching the restoration project with a “limited focus on the phrase ‘shall operate a golf course on the subject property’” and without considering “the context of what the CCR required.”
The CCR, or covenants, conditions and restrictions, govern how the 101-acre site can be used – and specifically say it can only be used for golf.
Gee in 2015 sold the course to a developer that tried to persuade just over half the Lake’s approximate 5,600 homeowners to change the CCR and allow construction of houses, a school and a farm. That effort failed and the land reverted back to ALCR.
Throughout the long legal battle, Gee’s lawyers have argued that the restoration order by Superior Court Judge John Hannah never specified what kind of golf course had to be built on the site.
And that assertion is likely to be a major – if not the major – issue for the judge to resolve.
Barnes’s petition states that in a conversation, Gee “confirmed that ALCR had not hired a golf course architect or designer, is not working from any updated golf course design and has not hired a general contractor to oversee restoration of the golf course.
“Mr. Gee explained he did not need a new golf course design, but would be restoring to 90%-95% of the golf course to its original condition so those professionals were not needed,” it states.
He said Gee told him “ALCR intended to restore a 9-hole golf course and use the remaining 9 holes for practice.
“Mr. Gee disputed plaintiffs’ counsel’s statement that ALCR was required to restore an 18-hole golf course and Mr. Gee stated ALCR was only obligated to restore a golf course on the golf course.”
“It is plain from ALCR’s restoration efforts to date that it is doing as little as possible to restore the golf course – based not on an updated golf course design, but ostensibly based on its original condition as best discerned by ALCR without the assistance of a professional golf course designer,” Barnes told the court.
Gee previously has told AFN that some holes would be used for a golf training academy that would be used when regular golf business was slow.
Barnes also asserts that Gee has failed to apply for a city grading and drainage plan permit to expand the driving range by some 6,740 square feet that would double the previous 22 hitting areas.
“We are laser-leveling and we’ve been laser leveling tees for the last 15 years – everybody does that,” Gee said after Barnes filed his petition. “You don’t need a grading permit for that and that’s not an issue. The golf course doesn’t need a permit. We checked on that quickly.”
Barnes wrote that Gee is bypassing a permit to save money on professionals who would have to be involved in fashioning it and said the “grading issue is significant because the Lakes Golf Course is part of the flood control plan for that area of Ahwatukee.”
Gee said his plan allows for adequate drainage in the event of heavy rains.
Barnes also is taking issue with Gee’s plan to not fill the lakes on the west side of the course – which he alleges “will be taking away a portion of the basic amenities of the golf course and surrounding community.”
“Because ALCR is not having to pay for the water, expense is not a reason for ALCR’s decision to not fill those two lakes,” Barnes states. “But, leaving the lakebeds empty is exposing the sore condition of the golf course in that area.”
He said Gee is continuing his “original strategy of letting the golf course deteriorate so it could be developed, thereby enriching himself and his investors at the expense of the neighbors and other benefitted persons.”
“In the meantime, ALCR wants to give the Ahwatukee community something less than what it had even before Mr. Gee closed the golf course in 2013,” Barnes wrote. ′