Letter to community

Letter to community

Letter to the community

about the Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course

Jan. 27, 2019

Dear Supporters and Friends:

We beat the land grabbers three times; help us make it four.

We stood up to land grabbers and held them off three times; now, we need help again to go another round. The stakes are enormous for our middle-class community and for many other communities that benefit from land-use protections.

Save the Lakes is a group of homeowners, many of whom are retirees, living in a city-community of 100,000+ people called Ahwatukee in the greater Phoenix area.  We have confounded everyone’s expectations by stopping real estate speculators – not once, not twice, but three times so far.

Here is our story in a nutshell. Developers, led by Pasadena, CA investor Wilson Gee, have wanted to turn a large open space and golf course that has been legally protected from development for over 40 years into a housing development. The 18-hole Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course was once rated among the top 10 executive courses in the nation. Development efforts began in 2008, when these “investors” and developers wanted to take a community resource and resell it at an enormous profit for housing. In exchange, we were to be “rewarded” with traffic jams, flood risk, and lower quality of life. We didn’t think that was a fair deal.

So we fought back.

First, the developers claimed that a deed restriction on the property really didn’t require a golf course on the property. We went to court and the judge ruled in 2016 that the deed restriction really does require a golf course on the property. The judge also ruled that if the developers wanted to use the property for another purpose, they had to follow the procedure outlined in the deed restrictions. (https://savethelakesahwatukee.org/judge-ruling-july-11-2016/.)  Given the court’s ruling, the developers began a multi-million dollar public relations and advertising campaign to persuade homeowners to agree to change the deed restriction.

For the second win, we fought back against their campaign of misleading information, glitzy artist renderings, and boosterish propaganda. We held community meetings, met with neighborhood groups, wrote op-ed pieces. We even ran a few ads, but not nearly as many as the developers. Despite outspending local homeowners on a magnitude of nearly 20:1, the developers’ campaign failed to collect enough signatures.

Failing to get enough signatures, the developers then asked the same judge to overturn the deed restriction based upon a notion that “material conditions” no longer justified keeping the open space as a golf course. After a costly trial, the judge delivered the developers’ third defeat. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah declined to overturn the deed restriction. Instead, he concluded that the developers acted in bad faith and violated the deed restriction by not operating a golf course on the property and ordered them in May 2018 to restore the course. He also awarded us attorney’s fees, which the developers have not paid. (https://savethelakesahwatukee.org/judge_rejects-true-life-bid-to-change-ccrs-jan-2-2018-legal-rulings-latest-ruling-and-findings/) They also have not begun to restore the golf course, for which we will be seeking a contempt of court citation.

But rather than listening to the resounding “No” from our community, the developers have returned. They are now asking the Arizona Appeals Court to overturn the lower court and let them build as many homes as they can get permission to build. The developers and their investment partnerships have very deep pockets and have spent millions so far trying to develop Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course, and they are willing to spend more in hopes of a multi-million dollar payoff.

The stakes in the case are huge, not just for homeowners near this course and the surrounding neighborhoods. The repercussions could go beyond the parcels in the Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course. If the Appeals Court decides that the developers may build on the Lakes course, the deed restriction on the Ahwatukee Country Club Course could also be unilaterally changed by the developer and more houses built. Moreover, since the case is now in the court of appeals, it will likely become ruling legal precedent for similar open spaces, not only here in Arizona, but nationally since there are few cases that have previously been decided on the legal issues presented.

When our community was designed, the land in the golf course was left undeveloped to allow floodwaters to collect and gradually abate. Now, the developers imagine that the rains will no longer fall.  All of this building is literally at the central hub of our town, where the streets and other infrastructure were designed for considerably lower housing density.

Based on previous court rulings and the law, we believe we have solid case and we are confident that the appeals court will reject their appeal. Nevertheless, having our say in court is expensive. We need to raise $15,000 to pay our attorney Tim Barnes for his work on the appeal.

We are not asking others to solve our problems; we have a realistic plan and we are willing to work to follow it through with it. But we desperately and sincerely need your financial assistance to make it happen. Help us deliver the fourth strike.

You may contribute to our GoFundMe page or you may send a check to:

Lakes Golf Course Legal Defense Fund
% Timothy H. Barnes, P.C.
428 E. Thunderbird Road, #150
Phoenix, AZ 85022

Jeffery Hall,
President, Save the Lakes