2018: a great year for homeowners

2018: a great year for homeowners

Dear friend and supporter of Save the Lakes,

It’s been an outstanding year for Ahwatukee homeowners. We won!

Let that sink in a moment. Against long odds, Ahwatukee homeowners prevailed in their lawsuit to stop an out-of-town real estate developer from ignoring the law and bulldozing Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course for a housing development. Almost a year ago on Jan. 3, 2018, Judge John Hannah ruled in favor of the homeowners’ position, which is that the CC&Rs require the property to be used as a golf course. Despite a multi-million dollar public relations campaign to influence a vote and a trial before an Arizona judge, developers Wilson Gee and The True Life Cos. LOST.  The victory is a credit to you — our countless volunteers, organizers, supporters, and donors.

More good news came only months later on May 31, 2018. Judge Hannah ordered that the property must be used as a golf course, and he ordered the golf course owners to OPERATE a golf course on the property. He placed a permanent injunction on the property, which prevents present and future owners from using the property for anything but a golf course. The land may NOT lie fallow, as it is now. Although the property owners were ordered to begin restoring the course, neither TTLC nor Gee has done anything to restore the course between May and October, when they filed their joint appeal. In a few weeks, our attorney Tim Barnes will ask the court to hold the owner in contempt for not beginning the restoration.

With a multi-million payoff at stake, the developer’s next move was predictable: they appealed. On Oct. 11, 2018, their attorneys filed their legal appeal. They argue that the CC&Rs don’t require a golf course on the property, as Hannah ruled. (CC&Rs are legal language in the deed that limits the property’s use to golf.) We disagree, and our attorney will file legal arguments supporting our position in January.

The other predictable news was that the developer and his financial dependents would portray the appeal as a defeat for homeowners. They say, “The run-down course is your fault. You deserve to look at that unsightly mess until homeowners agree to let us build our housing. Golf is dead; housing is inevitable as changing seasons.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Ahwatukee should be proud it stood up for its rights. Neighborhood deterioration, environmental blight and lower quality of life are not inevitable. The wheels of justice may turn slowly, but they haven’t stopped turning.

We are optimistic that the appeals court will uphold our victory, and order Wilson Gee — who resumed ownership of the course last summer — to restore it.

We see a path for a final resolution. After the lawyers file all their paperwork, oral arguments will be held, perhaps early next year. The appeals court could rule sometime later, perhaps the middle of the year. We have a very strong case and the facts support our position. Although we have no control over whether the course is sold, we have solicited professional opinions from golf course architects and brokers, and we have repeatedly been told that a course could be up and running in a 18 to 24 months.

While our case is very strong, the wheels of justice are slow and need a regular application of money as lubricant. We will launch another fundraising campaign early next year. While the appeal will not be nearly as costly as the superior court trial, we will still have expenses. Although the developers were ordered in May to pay our legal fees, they have not paid anything.

Wishing you all the best and warm regards for the New Year,

Save the Lakes Ahwatukee board of directors

Jeffery Hall, president