Fireworks Erupt In Both 55+ Community Golf Course Cases
By Paul Maryniak, AFN Executive Editor
Fireworks erupted in both of Ahwatukee ‘s golf course court cases but those involving Ahwatukee Lakes flamed out almost as abruptly as they began.
Last week, Lakes course owner ALCR filed a surprise plea to the Arizona Court of Appeals, asking it to find Superior Court Judge Sara Agne “abused her discretion” and overturn her contempt of court ruling so it would not have to pay nearly $25,000 in fees to attorney Tim Barnes, who is representing the two homeowners suing for the course’s restoration.
In the other case, Club West course owner The Edge and Shea Homes filed a strongly-worded reply to the Club West Conservancy’s request that Judge Margaret Mahoney dismiss their challenge to its petition that she rule they can never built homes on the course.
“CWC represents a handful of anonymous, disgruntled FCW (Foothills Club West) homeowners seeking to compel the development of an 18-hole championship golf course on property they do not own pursuant to a contract to which they are a stranger,” attorney Daniel Dowd wrote.
The appeals court made quick work of ALCR’s request: It dismissed the April 12 plea before Barnes even had a chance to respond.
Mahoney has yet to rule or set a hearing on the Conservancy’s request, filed last December, which is based on a contention that Shea Homes and the original homebuilder in Club West not only advertised the course as an integral part of the development to attract homebuyers but also promised in sales agreements to keep the site permanently for golf.
Lakes Maneuver A Surprise
Attorney Daniel Maynard' petition was unexpected, particularly since ALCR had agreed with Barnes to have long-time golf course expert Mark J. Woodward serve as the special master overseeing the restoration of the 18-hole executive course in time for a September opening.
Agne’s contempt ruling paved the way for Woodward’s selection. She ruled last year that ALCR and principal Wilson Gee had shown contempt of court by proceeding with the restoration work without securing a grading permit from the city.
In the appeals court petition, Maynard said his client had no beef with Woodward’s appointment but objected to the contempt ruling and paying Barnes’ fees.
Maynard and Gee have consistently maintained the city told them a permit was not needed and said Planning Department bureaucrats had failed to send them a letter confirming what they said they had been told over the phone.
Agne rejected that defense and on Jan. 18 ordered they deposit a $500,000 bond to ensure ALCR follows Woodward’s directions on restoring the course.
ALCR and Gee already have opened nine holes and have promised to reopen the rest of the course by the September deadline set by still another judge in the case 18 months ago.
While they were not entitled by law to appeal the contempt ruling, Maynard filed what’s called a special action that the Court of Appeals is under no obligation to accept for consideration.
Maynard reiterated the assertion made by Gee and Terry Duggan, who oversees all operations at Gee’s golf courses in Ahwatukee and Maricopa that they “had been told by the city employees that no city permits were necessary for ALCR to begin construction to restore the Golf Course since there would be no significant grading or change in the drainage.”
Stating “ALCR has determined to reconstruct the Golf Course and to do everything it can to make it successful, Maynard said his client “has spent the money necessary to have it operational this year at least eight or nine months before it is required to open pursuant to the order.”
“The most expensive golf sand available has been purchased to make the sand traps stand out. ALCR plans to replace many of the trees and vegetation that have died. ALCR has sealed the lakes and is killing the plant growth in the lakes. ALCR, Gee and Duggan want the golf course to be beautiful and successful. ALCR is ahead of the Court ordered schedule to be operational,” he wrote.
He also said, “It is not realistic to say that ALCR has exercised its discretion in a way inconsistent with plaintiffs’ reasonable expectations because it did not get a construction permit that was not “’necessary to begin construction.’”
Presiding appeals court Judge Maria Elena Cruz gave no opinion in rejecting Maynard’s bid.
Club West Fight Bitter
There is no love lost between the Club West Conservancy and The Edge and Shea Homes, as underscored by the latter’s response to the Conservancy on April 4.
Dowd filing disputed the primary contentions of the Conservancy’s suit, stating that the group “ignores that its members agreed in every contract on which they currently rely that the Property need not be used as a golf course.
“Indeed, FCW homeowners agreed in the Master CC&Rs they could not rely on any representations regarding maintenance of a golf course on the property; they agreed in the addendum that the plans to construct a golf course were ‘subject to change at any time without notice, and that they could not rely on ‘any representation or warranty, either express or implied, with regard to any aspect” of the golf course.”
Dowd also reiterated that the Conservancy was reacting to something that doesn’t exist and again urged the judge to dismiss its lawsuit.
“CWC does not explain how its members have suffered the present, non-speculative harm required to plead an actual, justiciable controversy ripe for review when there is currently no residential development plan, let alone one that would affect its unidentified members,” he wrote.
He also ripped the Conservancy’s assertion that Shea never acquired the use rights to the course when it bought UDC Homes and said it had sought “to distract from the straight-forward legal; issues framed by” his dismissal request.
Dowd also rejected the Conservancy’s argument that selling any part of the golf course for home development would especially harm people with homes next to the course, who p[aid higher-than-average lot prices for the locations.
He wrote “there is no language” in the golf course’s declarant rights “discussing an intent to benefit the adjacent FCW property or its future homeowners.”
Dowd also attacked the Conservancy itself, stating that “by failing to identify its members, where their homes are located, whether an existing development plan exists and how implementation of that plan will impact its members, CWC has tacitly admitted its members lack standing.”
“The Edge does not know who the CWC homeowners are; it does not know what CWC’s members relied upon in entering into their purchase contracts; it does not know when CWC’s members purchased their homes; it does not know what documents CWC’s members signed when purchasing their homes; it does not know where CWC’s members’ homes are located; and it does not understand what development plan CWC believes will harm its members or how its members will be harmed,” Dowd wrote.
*Reprinted from the Ahwatukee Foothills News