The Club West Golf Course has been barren since February 2018, when Phoenix shut off water as the former owner’s unpaid bill topped $150,000.  (Special to AFN)

A newly formed nonprofit filed suit Monday against the Club West Community Association board, asking Superior Court to nullify its revision of land-use regulations governing the golf course.

The dramatic legal move by the Club West Conservancy – made up of several dozen Club West homeowners – came as four investors prepared to unveil a new plan at the board’s scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. tomorrow, March 19, to sell part of the course for homes.

The investors, who call themselves The Edge Team, had been scheduled to close March 17 on their agreement to buy the course from owner Wilson Gee but abruptly asked for an extension hours before the Conservancy filed its suit.

Gee said the length of the extension still has to be worked out.

Edge Team spokesman Matt Shearer did not respond to a request for comment. 

Club West HOA board President Mike Hinz also did not respond to an AFN question on whether he would still go through with the March 19 meeting, given concerns about the virus and warnings by the governor and Centers for Disease Control to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people. That meeting was canceled, a resident said.

The Edge Team’s presentation at the board’s meeting in January drew at least 200 homeowners. 

Multiple sources said the Edge Team prepared a plan that would involve the construction of a number of single and two-story homes but not nearly as many as the 164 that it said were needed to finance a shortened 18-hole golf course, new clubhouse and 18-hole putting course.

Opposition by a number of homeowners to that plan ultimately persuaded Taylor Morrison to pull out of its agreement with the investors to build the houses and it is unclear whether they have found a new homebuilder.

This time around, the Edge Team has been reportedly working on a plan for around 50 to 60 houses with the remainder of the course turned into a preserve.

The Conservancy’s lawsuit takes aim at the HOA board’s actions that paved the way for the investors to present any plan for it to review and send to Club West’s 2,700 homeowners for a vote.

At issue are the so-called declarant rights governing the golf course and whether the board could legally assume their control.

The lawsuit states that through a series of papers filed with the County Recorder by former board President Paul Moroz in 2010 and by Hinz in October 2018 and last July, the board took actions for deciding how the golf course can be used and how changes to that sue can be made.

Those actions were neither valid nor legal, the Conservancy alleges, and should be declared “void and unenforceable.”

It also asks the court to rule that the HOA board “may not act as a declarant” of the rights governing the use of the golf course.

The board last December had told homeowners that after it reviewed The Edge Team’s proposal, it would decide whether to submit it for approval by homeowners.

It also spelled out how that vote would be held and how it would be validated, indicating that the Edge Team might needs as few as about 400 homeowners to approve its plan.

Conservancy President Matt Tyler told AFN last month that the board had no authority to do that and that even its assumption of the rights to control the golf course were subject to the master CC&Rs under which the HOA operates.

To change those CC&Rs, Tyler said, the board needs the approval of at least 75 percent of all homeowners.

In terms of the lawsuit, that means the entire community would have to first vote on the HOA’s assumption of the course’s declarant rights that Moroz and Hinz tried to arrange in the filings with the County Recorder.

Echoing Tyler’s interview with AFN, the lawsuit states, “The HOA may not exercise any right or privilege not given to it expressly by the Master Declaration.”

The lawsuit may mean that the Edge Team’s efforts to win board approval for a community vote on a new plan for the course could be delayed for months – particularly if either side demands a trial or the losing side in the dispute appeals the decision.

The litigation involving the future of the defunct Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course, which Gee closed in 2013, is entering its sixth year and the state Supreme Court is not expected to decide whether it will even consider an appeal in that case until June.

Gee has asked the state Supreme Court to consider his appeal from a lower court ruling that he is required to restore the Lakes golf course. 

That ruling has been upheld by the Arizona Court of Appeals, but Gee maintains the courts have no authority to order someone to restore a business that was losing money.

The homeowners in that case contend that the Lakes course can be operated profitably.

In Club West, the golf course’s future has split the community to a degree.

Some homeowners have favored turning part of the course over to housing development if rest of it was turned into a preserve.

But the Conservancy, as well as other homeowners, say that would be unfair to those who paid premium lot prices as high as $60,000 to be next to a golf course and would see their views obliterated by new houses.

Questions also have been raised over the Edge Team’s long-term plan for maintaining the part of the course that would not be used for housing.

Critics are wary that even the Edge Team’s modified plan is just the first step toward eventually developing most of the golf course for housing.

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