Opponents of houses on the Club West Golf Course got an unintended Valentine’s Day present from the four investors pushing the plan after they announced on Friday that the home developer has pulled out of the deal.
The Edge Team’s announcement that Taylor Morrison no longer has an interest in building 162 single- and two-story homes on three segments of the field threw the course’s long-term future into more of the uncertainty that has loomed over the site since former owner Richard Breuninger went bankrupt last year.
The Club West Community Association board had been tentatively scheduled at its monthly meeting Thursday, Feb. 20, decide whether to put the Edge Team’s plan to a vote by the HOA’s approximate 2,700 homeowners.
Even before the Edge Team’s announcement, HOA board President Mike Hinz said he didn’t know what the board would be doing in the face of vehement opposition to the plan by some homeowners.
The Edge Team posted a statement from Taylor Morrison that said:
“Despite our continued optimism that a reasonable solution to the issues facing the Club West GC are attainable, we regrettably must inform you that Taylor Morrison has decided to step back from the project.
“Per recent discussions with community stakeholders and elected officials, it has become apparent that a contingent within the community strongly desires the course to be converted into some type of parkland or preserved open space.
“While we are open to this concept, the process of studying a parkland/preserve option would require the re-allocation of resources which are currently required for other projects. We have, therefore, decided to focus our efforts on more near-term projects currently in the pipeline.
“We appreciate everyone’s expenditure of time and energy, and hope that in due time we may once again have an opportunity to participate in an endurable solution for the community.”
The Edge Team noted that it had met with a spokesperson for the Concerned Club West Homeowners group and city Councilman Sal DiCiccio and that DiCiccio had asked the four investors to “provide more time for the community to review the proposal” and work with the group on “their proposal to convert the course to a preserve.”
The only additional comment from the Edge Team was to refer to its mission statement, which says:
“Our goal has always been to guide the future of the Club West Golf property and keep the fate of the land in the hands of our community. We are open to all input from the community.
“We will consider serious proposals for the land and disseminate the honest details of any proposal to the entire community. A variety of factors and conditions have created a sense of urgency and we will strive for a solution within the year.
“We understand some divisiveness is inevitable, but we are guided by the principle that every homeowner has a voice and a vote which will ultimately determine what is best for the community. “
Asked to comment on the latest development, Edge Team spokesman Matt Shearer told AFN:
“I honestly can’t think of anything I would feel comfortable saying right now that is not included in the statements on our website.”
He said he has spoken to many Club West residents, including some in the Concerned Club West Homeowners group, adding, “We have yet to formally discuss the details of their proposal.”
Two of the leaders of that group are retired Fisher Price CEO Kevin Curran and sports radio personality John Gambadoro.
Both are among the residents who have opposed the Edge Team’s plan, which included shortening the golf course but still keeping it at 18 holes, building a new club house and creating a driving range and an 18-hole putting course.
Curran was not available for comment and Gambadoro has declined comment.
The Edge Team’s consultants in the deal have consistently said revamping the golf course would cost as much as $10 million and that they could not afford to do that without selling 52 acres in three segments to Taylor Morrison.
Opponents said that would cost about 370 homes their open-space views, leaving them instead with the sight of new houses from their backyards.
They also contend the investors stood to make at least $16 million by selling parts of the course to Taylor Morrison – a figure the Edge Group’s lawyer said was exaggerated.
The investors are in escrow with course owner Wilson Gee to buy the course, which Gee put up for sale last fall with a price tag of $850,000.
Gee told AFN that there is a March 6 deadline for closing the deal. When asked if he would extend that deadline, Gee said, “It’s fluid.”
“From a technical standpoint, it may be able to be extended,” he added, “but we’re not there yet. So, until it gets to that state, the buyer has certain options they can extend, right now it’s more complicated.”
Asked if anyone else has expressed interest, Gee replied, “No, we didn’t have any backup offers.”
“Everything’s a waiting game,” he added, noting he is also waiting to see if the Arizona Supreme Court will hear his appeal from a Superior Court verdict ordering him to restore the Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course, which he closed in 2013 – a closure that has pitted him against two homeowners in litigation now entering its sixth year.
Gee essentially closed the Club West course in June 2016, saying he could no longer afford the city’s water bill of more than $750,000 annually.
And while water remains a challenge for Club West, another resident said his original, detailed plan to restore Club West and have it owned by homeowners remains an affordable option.
Resident Jim Lindstrom spent months in 2016 working with a golf course expert and other consultants on a plan for homeowners to buy the course.
His plan posed scenarios with only a fraction of the community’s total homeowners buying the course. To cut irrigation costs, less turf would be included in a revamped course, although its total length would remain unchanged.
Lindstrom said he updated his 2016 business plan for restoring the course, which involved spending a total $5.5 million over two years.
“It’s now $6 (million) to $8 (million) over two years, so it hasn’t gotten much worse,” Lindstrom told AFN.
If all homeowners were assessed the cost of purchasing and restoring the course at a total $7 million, he said, each would be responsible for paying $2,745 over three years – and the cost of city water is included.
That’s because his plan would involve reducing the amount of water-guzzling turf on the course.
Lindstrom had been critical of the Edge Team’s plan, saying the investors had not demonstrated how they would market a shorter course whose location made it an unlikely draw for many golfers outside of Club West.
Lindstrom had marketed his plan in 2016 with the idea that no more than about 300 homeowners might be interested in taking over the course.
That would have pushed the per-household cost of buying it well above his estimate of what each household would pay if the entire community was part of the deal.
But he said that when it comes to any movement for community ownership of the course, “I don’t know that I want to lead it anymore.”
He added, “For 2,700 bucks a homeowner, it’s all about leadership. All our HOA board leadership has to do is convince the community this is the right thing to do.”