The Phoenix suburb of Ahwatukee continues to struggle with something that is really a problem for many communities: what happens when a golf course or similar open space closes down? What can and should be done with the land? LBN previously reported on a battle going on in Ahwatukee for two seats on the Ahwatukee Board of Mangement (ABM). The particular golf course causing all the debate now is the Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course. The course closed in 2013 and was sold to The True Life Companies. True Life provides land to home builders. The concern is that the development of the Lakes Course could set a precedent and lead to the development of other Phoenix-area golf courses that have also closed.
Another concern about the Ahwatukee course is that, when the area was being developed, some buyers paid premium prices for the building lots adjacent to the course. Now that the course is closed, that value has been lost. This is one of the issues of concern to Mike Petty and Gerry Homewood, who are candidates for the seats on the Ahwatukee Board of Management.
Petty explains that the golf course was “a major part of the flood control plan” for the community, including basins to retain the water that fell during heavy rainstorms. Converting the golf course to homes would change the ratio of development to open space designed into the community. Homewood expresses concerns as the motivations of the golf course owners in closing the course. Homewood questions whether upkeep costs really outpaced revenues or whether instead the course was closed to create a blighted property that could then be developed as a solution to the blight.
At the moment, the biggest thing standing in the way of development of the golf course is the conditions, covenants and restrictions (CC&Rs) incorporated into all the deeds when the community was planned. The golf course has restrictions in its deed providing that the land should be used for a golf course. The promise, says Petty, was made to the 5,200 residents of the community. The current owner of the course is attempting to get residents to sign waivers that would permit the nonconforming development.
Homewood points out that the developer could proceed with a new plan if 51% of the landowners in the community would sign the agreement permitting the new use of the land. If the landowners refused, the developer could attempt to get a court to permit the development. However, as Homewood points out, at least one court in New Mexico has ruled that a business failure is not grounds for removing deed restrictions.
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