Lakes course owner must pay $2M penalty, judge rules

This August 2022 aerial shot shows the Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course before its restoration was completed. (Tom Sanfilippo/Inside Out Aerial)

A Superior Court judge ordered the owner of the Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course to pay a $2 million sanction for failing to meet another judge’s deadline for completing its restoration.

In an order filed Monday, Judge Melissa Iyer Julian ruled that ALCR failed to follow Judge Theodore Campagnolo’s December 2020 directions for completing the 18-hole course and opening it fully by September 2022.

That deadline was extended by a month to allow newly planted grass to take better root and golfers have been using the course since then.

But Attorney Tim Barnes contended that ALCR had failed to address numerous problems on the site – including an adequate replacement for the clubhouse that was destroyed in a never-solved 2016 arson.

Barnes represents Lakes homeowners Linda Swain and Eileen Breslin, who have waged a legal battle since 2014 with ALCR and a related predecessor over company-principal Wilson Gee’s closure of the course in 2013.

Getting relief from the new order could be difficult for ALCR.

While ALCR can file a special action with the Arizona Court of Appeals seeking a review of Iyer Julian’s order, the higher court does not have to accept it as it would a conventional appeal.

ALCR must also pay Barnes’ fees, but the judge gave him 20 days to file further paperwork.

The judge’s ruling follows by less than two months a day-long hearing in which Barnes presented evidence of the different problems on the course that ALCR had failed to address.

She quoted Campagnolo’s original order, which said:

“Completion means completion. Not substantial completion. Not partial completion. Completion means that the golf course is open for golfing on all 18 holes and that any amenities mentioned in the Declarations, such as a pro shop, pathways, etc. are ready for usage by golfers.”

“Declarations” refers to the land use regulations governing the 105-acre course.

Iyer Julian’s order said, “Although the golf course is now playable, plaintiffs identified several issues with other aspects of the course, which they contend violate their reasonable expectations as the benefitted owners.”

Those concerns meant, she added, ALCR failed to meet the extended deadline for completing the course.

The judge cited:

Paths and bridges

The judge noted that Barnes had submitted photos showing “several areas of the bridges and cart paths show cracked concrete and graffiti that had not been cleaned or repaired as of the date of the (Jan. 23, 2023) hearing.”

She said that “aside from being unsightly,” the court-appointed special master overseeing the course’s restoration, Mark Woodward, had testified “these areas presented safety hazards to those walking the course.”

The judge found, “The existence of the unsightly and unsafe cart paths and bridges defaced with graffiti is inconsistent with the benefitted owners’ reasonable expectations.”


“These bathroom remain in a state of disrepair and are not functional,” Iyer Julian wrote, citing photos showing “dirty floors, broken sinks and smashed toilets.”

She noted that Terry Duggan, vice president of an ALCR-related company, said one bathroom couldn’t be finished because ALCR couldn’t get city permits quickly enough and that the company was not making efforts to replace another bathroom that had been demolished.

The judge said that while Woodward had testified the use of porta-potties as substitutes “is not unusual,” permanent bathrooms are “part of what the benefitted (home)owners reasonably expected: and that “unsightly, unsafe and unusable facilities that currently exist are inconsistent with those expectations.”

She also said the porta-potties “alter the picturesque landscape of the course, which the owners have a right to enjoy.”

Debris, sand and weeds

The judge said photos showed “a significant overgrowth of weeds along with concrete and sand debris littered throughout areas in the rough of the golf course and parking lot” and that some weeds and trees had even grown through the surface of the lakes.

She said the special master “acknowledged that these areas had to be treated” and that they had been neglected “for a lengthy period.”

She also noted that Duggan admitted “areas of the rough remain unsightly and wholly inconsistent with the lush greens and trees that previously existed before the course fell into a state of disrepair and neglected maintenance.”

Iyer Julian also cited a large pile of sand and gravel remained in the parking lot to refill “hazards: and that there were “no plans to store the sand in a less visible area.”

The judge said Barnes’ clients “are not entitled to sanctions merely because every tree and patch of grass has not been replanted or because every lake or reservoir has not been filled” and cited Campagnolo’s acknowledgement that some changes might be necessary that altered the original landscape of the Lakes.

But she added that “the ugly overgrowth of weeds and debris currently existing in the rough does not reflect” a suitable substitution.

Clubhouse/pro shop

The final area the judge took issue with involves ALCR’s use of a 10’x32’ modular building replacing the destroyed 5,000-square-foot clubhouse.

She noted that a witness testified that the modular building in January 2023 had no electricity and was only furnished with “a card table and a porta-potty.”

Iyer Julian cited testimony by Duggan, who said ALCR planned to build a permanent clubhouse but that “it had not taken any steps to plan its reconstruction.”

Hence, the judge ruled, “’a temporary clubhouse’ is inconsistent with the benefitted owners’ reasonable expectations and in no way (is) comparable to what existed in 2013.”

Noting that Campagnolo “made his order very clear,” Iyer Julian said she “cannot find ALCR completed the golf course, even within the extended October 2022 deadline.”

“A significant portion of the golf course’s landscape remains overgrown with weeds and portions are still covered with cracked concrete, graffiti and debris,” she wrote.

“The bathrooms are an unsightly, unusable hazard and the ‘temporary clubhouse’ is a fraction of the size of the previous clubhouse,” she continued. “It does not offer the same amenities and until recently did not even have electricity. This does not demonstrate compliance with the final deadline as set by (Campagnolo’s order). ‘Completion’ as defined in that order has not been achieved.”

The judge rejected the homeowners’ complaint about the reduction of the course’s turf, declaring it “constitutes a reasonable modification to its design with the laudable purpose of water conservation.”

Yet, she added, “the redesign must at least provide a comparable alternative view for homeowners and not one that is littered with weeds and debris. In its current state, the surrounding areas of the green cannot be described as a well-manicured ‘desert landscape.’”

She also disputed ALCR’s contention that some problems cited during the hearing were corrected, calling that “insufficient to avoid the final sanction…because the bulk of the concerns identified by the benefitted homeowners remain.”

She also stated, “The. delayed attempt to comply with those aspects of the Sanction Order demonstrates why the coercive sanctions were entered in the first place.

“This history of this case and prior findings entered herein show that ALCR has been reluctant to fulfill its obligation under the judgment unless and until sanctions are imposed.”

Ironically, Ahwatukee Lakes homeowners have posted other complaints on social media in recent weeks about the course.

Some have complained about a green scum on the lakes while others have cited eroding banks near Lakeside Boulevard and 41st Place.

“Also, there are millions of gnats in the summer covering pool surface like a blanket and windows and screens,” a homeowner posted. “I cannot go in my yard without hundreds of these insects filling my ears, eyes, face and entering my house no matter how fast I go in and out. …. These gnats clog my pool filters requiring constant changing of same. If Gee put chemicals in the lake as prior owner did we wouldn’t have this problem. It is new.”

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