SCC leaders to developer: ‘No thanks’
By MELODY JAMESON
Sun City Center – Intent on preserving future options, community association directors here voted this week to take a pass on the developer’s latest golf course deal.
Meeting in a special session Monday morning, the full CA board agreed unanimously to give the recent official offer by WCI Communities, Inc., to sell its North Lakes and Sandpiper golf courses for $1.65 million a thanks, but no thanks response.
In so doing, board members asserted they are ensuring the community’s rights of first refusal in connection with any proposed future acquisitions as guaranteed under the 1984 Agreement – a 25-year-old arrangement that keeps the community in the loop even as the developer accepts potential purchase offers from other buyers. The agreement, which has bound all successive parties for more than a quarter century, gives the CA on behalf of the community the option of undertaking golf course acquisition discussions with the developer whenever another potential buyer makes a new offer.
In a letter to the CA, dated April 5, 2010, Richard Barber, vice president of the development company now restructuring itself after emerging from bankruptcy in 2009, gave formal notice that the two SCC courses – one closed, the other now also open to the public - are for sale on the open market. Its asking price for the 27-hole Sandpiper course, aka the South course, is $1.3 million, for the fallow and over-grown 180-acre North Lakes layout $350,000, or for the pair a total of $1,650,000, Barber said.
WCI previously had offered the north and south courses, along with the 18-hole Caloosa Greens executive course, for a total of $3.9 million and currently is listing for sale all of its golf courses and pertinent golf clubhouses in both Sun City Center and Kings Point through a brokerage. The package asking price for the portfolio of seven courses in the two communities, including the newest, most elaborate Renaissance Club and the older Golf and Racquet Club on Sun City Center’s south side, is $13,725,000.
In his April 5 letter, Barber outlined the sale terms for one or both of the older courses, and, citing provisions in the ’84 agreement, provided 30 days for CA acceptance or decline. Pursuant to the agreement, deadline for the CA response is Wednesday, May 5.
Monday, 10 days before the deadline, CA board members listened intently as perhaps a dozen residents in a gathering of about 150 golfers and non-golfers questioned and commented. They noted that both nationally and locally golf courses are not popular investments, particularly in recessionary conditions, and cautioned that a purchased course could “be a real money pit.” They asked about means of notifying every homeowner if one or more course purchases were to be committed. They suggested that the remaining unused homesites in the two communities – about 600 – if built and sold would not constitute a strong enough golf demand. They lamented conditions on the closed and untended North Lakes course that make it “literally a jungle.” They wondered aloud about other uses- including residential development by a new entity - for the neglected, weedy layout surrounded by some 400 homeowners who bargained for a consistently green manicured golf course view.
For the most part, directors heard the CA members without making individual remarks – until the moment of decision. Faced with accepting all or part of the WCI April 5 offer which then would bind the community and could eliminate any future right of first refusal or with rejecting the offer and preserving the options to weigh in on any future offers, board members unanimously chose the latter approach in a motion by Don Schings, many adding their comments in the process.
Al Alderman and Martin Hurwitz emphasized the importance of keeping options open as developments in the golf course sales sagas continue to unfold. Chuck Collett cautioned forcefully that it would be a mistake to believe the board is disinterested in the issues as it is monitoring closely anything transpiring behind the scenes. Anne Cross commended former community leaders and developers for their roles in the 25-year-old agreement that is “protecting the interests of the community today.” Neil Rothfeld, treasurer but not a voting board member, assured those concerned about involving the entire CA membership in any purchase decision that such a capital expenditure unquestionably would require full membership support. And President Ed Barnes, acknowledging that 180 acres of rolling former golf course for $350,000 might appeal to some developer, also pointed to the county-approved rezoning that would be required for redevelopment and the strong objections that would be raised by SCC citizens. For the short term, he advised dissatisfied homeowners to register complaints with WCI, with Hillsborough’s code enforcement department and with county commissioners.
CA board members long have stated that an ideal situation would be acquisition and maintenance of the golf courses by an experienced course operator. While Barnes declined to elaborate further, this week he said he still expects the matter to be resolved ultimately in a manner favorable to the community.
Copyright 2010 Melody Jameson