Mike Brilz, vice president of land development for PulteGroup, presents Pulte's plan for developing the Lakes Golf Course to a group of residents Friday, June 6.

Pulte has announced it is no longer in contract with the seller of The Lakes Golf Course, just over a year after signing a memorandum of understanding to purchase the property.

“Pulte was unable to come to final terms with the seller of the Ahwatukee Lakes property and is no longer in contract on the parcel,” said PulteGroup spokeswoman Jacque Petroulakis. “As we continue to believe that redevelopment of this property offers tremendous opportunities for adjacent neighbors and the broader community, we would consider reopening discussions in the future.”

Pulte launched a widespread public outreach campaign over the summer, meeting with dozens of community groups and passing out consent forms to neighbors who were in favor of the proposed project.

The group wanted to build about 250 homes on the land and leave 40 acres open for green space. It needed approval from 51 percent of homeowners within the Ahwatukee Board of Management to carry out that plan. Pulte would not give confirmation of how many signatures it collected. Petroulakis said the signatures was not the reason Pulte pulled out of the deal.

“Pulte has acted in a very gracious way in this entire process and I’m very glad we had the opportunity to try and work with them, but anybody that does anything on this property will have to get the approval of the neighborhood first,” said City Councilman Sal DiCiccio. “Mr. Gee (the owner of the course) would have been better off operating it as a golf course. It would have been cheaper for him and the outcome is the same. Nothing is going to happen there. Shutting it down and creating an ecological nightmare for this community didn’t help anybody. It just made matters worse.”

Gee faces a $1.6 million tax penalty from the county for closing the course.

Neighbors have formed a nonprofit, Save the Lakes, to fight any development of the land. The mission is to uphold the CC&Rs that govern the land, which say the property must remain a golf course. They group has collected more than 2,200 homeowners to sign a petition upholding those CC&Rs.

“I think they’re smart in backing out,” said Ben Holt, president of Save the Lakes. “They might as well face reality and throw in the towel. We had enough signatures on petitions to not only approach 50 percent, but to stop them from ever getting 51 percent. I think they finally realized that.”

Holt said they plan to continue to pursue more signatures on their petition. Some of the members are involved in a lawsuit right now suing the owners of the course for breach of contract. The end goal of that lawsuit is to get an injunction from a judge forcing the owner of the property to return the land to its former glory.

Save the Lakes doesn’t fear any new developer coming in.

“I would caution them,” Holt said. “If Pulte couldn’t pull it off, any other developer should be somewhat leery of even trying. They’ve had lots of experience with this and they’ve got deep pockets. They’re the biggest developer in the country. If they couldn’t pull it off, what makes some smaller company think they can do it?... Proceed with caution because we are going to fight you tooth and nail.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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