The immediate future of the Club West Golf Course hangs in the balance this week as a Superior Court judge hears a homeowners group’s plea for a five-month delay on further action toward turning the 55-acre site into a park with homes.
Judge Daniel Kiley has set aside five hours for testimony and argument on a request by the Club West Conservancy for a temporary restraining order to stop the Foothills Club West Community Association board from scheduling a vote this year on the park plan, which is tentatively set to be unveiled Oct. 15. The hearing was originally scheduled for Oct. 1 but was abruptly moved to Oct. 21 because of a personal emergency involving one of the parties.
At the same time, the board contends the Conservancy has no right to a restraining order.
Four investors incorporated as The Edge have an agreement with owner Wilson Gee to buy the course for $750,000.
After an initial plan to build a shorter 18-hole course and 162 homes fell apart in February, three of The Edge investors formed a related entity called Community Land Solutions, which dubbed the site The Park at Club West.
It hopes to sell homeowners on a plan for parkland, trails, some other amenities like a dog park – and an unspecified number of homes. It set up an advisory committee to gather homeowners’ ideas for what it should include.
Minutes from one of the advisory committee meetings state it “discussed temporary parking, mountain top saguaros with holiday lights, water features, pools, retail and restaurants as well as the ‘sense of arrival’ and what that would feel and look like.”
There has been no public indication that CLS and The Edge are considering commercial uses on the course.
CLS has declared that its goal “is to create a sustainable park that looks natural. Through careful planning the landscape will look as if it evolved naturally rather than a dead golf course that become overgrown or was converted to desert. The preliminary plans also call for at least five miles of walkways and paths.”
It also states, “We are in the process of planning for amenities such as pickle ball, public art, and an enhanced trail system. We are also considering zero-cost or revenue-positive concepts such as the Club West Arts Festival with food trucks, host tents, vendor booths and music as well as an annual candlelight holiday walk and homeowner lights contests.”
But paying for the park would require the sale of some land for housing – and the Conservancy says that would be unfair to 357 homeowners who paid premium prices for lots on the course. New homes would obscure their views, the group says.
Moreover, The Edge and CLS also would have to pay an unspecified amount in back taxes. Once the site ceased to be a golf course, it lost the reduced rate levied on courses.
Minutes from previous advisory committee meetings say CLS conferred with County Assessor’s office and that “the Assessors’ office cannot provide hard numbers or even estimates, but can only assess what is owed.
“The amount owed will be specific to the amount of land converted from golf usage to other usages and subject to a 10-year look-back on tax benefits received,” the minutes continue, adding CLS would try “to closely estimate this key component of the budget.”
CLS is scheduled to unveil the product of its work at the next HOA board meeting Oct. 15 – creating the potential for the board to set a date before year’s end for a vote by Club West’s 2,700 homeowners.
It published a timeline that included a reception five days after the HOA board meeting that will include unspecified city officials and others to further refine the plan. While it lists a homeowners vote on the timeline, it set no target date.
The Conservancy, a group of homeowners vehemently opposed to any houses on the course, wants Kiley to stop that vote until at least February.
That’s when Kiley has set a trial on its contention that the board secretly and illegally gave itself the power to alter the site’s covenants, conditions and restrictions without the consent of a majority of all Club West homeowners.
The board denies it did anything wrong in 2018 when it assumed the “declarant rights” to the course.
It contends it actually saved the course from falling into the hands of an owner who could change the CC&Rs with the permission of only about 10 percent of the homeowners.
The board tripled to 30 percent the required percentage of homeowners needed to change the site’s use but the Conservancy says that violates the association’s overarching CC&Rs..
The Conservancy argues that any changes in the course’s use require approval by 75 percent of homeowners.
The last four months have been busy for both the Conservancy and The Edge/Park at Club West.
The Conservancy polled homeowners and got more than 800 responses. Of those responses, the vast majority opposed home construction on the site.
The Edge has cleared overgrowth and leveled a shed while the advisory committee has been discussing things like what kind of low-maintenance vegetation can be planted and what social activities could be hosted by the course.
The committee also rejected the Conservancy’s proposal for reviving the golf course, ripping its presentation to homeowners in a mailing.
It assailed the Conservancy of “non-productive and misleading tactics” during meetings it held with the group and said, “It was time to move on and focus on a solution.”
Meanwhile, the Conservancy has objectives of its own – including forcing the board to sue Wilson Gee to restore the course as required by the CC&Rs.
A previous HOA board, some of whose members are currently on the board, did sue Gee in 2016 after he shut off the water, saying he could no longer afford the city’s bill that totaled more than $700,000.
The board dropped the suit following Richard Breuninger’s efforts to revive the course in late 2017.
The Conservancy also has noted that rulings in the Lakes course case – in which Gee now faces sanctions for ignoring a judge’s restoration order – add new precedent for the Club West board to do the same with Gee.
Instead, the Conservancy notes, “The board also gave Wilson Gee, owner of the golf course, membership into the HOA and 41 votes – even though the golf course is not under the management of the Club West HOA. This just makes it easier for the developers to push through a vote to build new houses.
“Many in this community are justifiably shocked and outraged that the HOA Board would take any steps that would obviously hurt the property values of many residents of our community, who would have new houses built in their backyard. This appears to be a clear violation of their responsibility to take only actions that benefit the entire community.”
The bitterness between the HOA board and the Conservancy also has spilled into the court case right up to a few weeks ago.
The Conservancy’s lawyer asked the judge for more time to file a brief in opposition to the board’s request for dismissal of the lawsuit on grounds it has no standing.
Conservancy attorney Daniel Slavin’s petition for a delay to late October stated the delay “will not affect the parties’ rights or defenses, nor will it delay final resolution of the case.”
But attorney Jeffrey Solloway, representing the board, urged Kiley not to grant the Conservancy more time, saying the extension gave the Conservancy more time “to disseminate misinformation to the Association community through their frequent newsletter postings.”
It said Slavin’s busy schedule – only part of the reason he sought the delay – was no excuse.
Admitting he normally accommodates opposing counsel’s requests for more time, Solloway wrote, “Ironically Plaintiff seems to express urgency in attempting to stop the Association from taking action but apparently does not have urgency in resolving a key issue in this case.”
He said if Slavin was well-intentioned, he would have sought a delay in the hearing on the restraining order instead.
Kiley, in a six-line order, granted the delay until Oct. 23.