Short history of Lakes controversy

Short history of Lakes controversy

Ahwatukee and Lakes Golf Course timelines

Presley opens door to vast Ahwatukee growth

  • After World War II, present-day Ahwatukee was ranches and farms in the boondocks. The land had no water and was far from the urban infrastructure. After World War II, Randall Presley, a California developer who trained to be a pilot in Phoenix, started a development company that had several projects on the East and West Coast.  After compiling a successful development track record, he acquired 2,080 acres of ranch land in 1971, which became the cornerstone of present-day Ahwatukee.
  • In November 1971, the Maricopa County board of supervisors approved Presley Development Co. of Arizona’s plan to develop 410 acres of what became Ahwatukee.  It was the first master-planned community south of South Mountain. In early 1972, the city of Phoenix agreed to provide vital water and sewer, a major need for any undeveloped land. Eventually 56 subdivisions were added to Presley’s project, a total of 5,073 homes. About half of the units are age-restricted.
  • Later the master-planned communities of Mountain Park Ranch, Lakewood, and the Foothills were built to the south and southwest of Ahwatukee. The area was annexed to Phoenix in 1987. The combined communities adopted the name Village of Ahwatukee Foothills in 1991. Those three communities are not considered a part of the “benefited parties” of the CC&Rs.

The Lakes Golf Course controversy

  • Construction of the Ahwatukee Country Club Golf Course and 17 model homes began in 1972. The first residents moved in in 1973. 
  • The 101-acre Lakes Golf Course opened in 1977. Presley had not planned a second golf course, and he wanted to develop all but 18 acres of the land that became the Lakes course. However, his drainage engineer Jerry Sudbeck advised him that 18 acres was woefully inadequate for the torrents that come off South Mountain.  Presley’s compromise was to build a second golf course: he could charge more for the lots along the golf course to offset the sales of the lost home sites, and the open space could handle some water overflow.
  • The 101-acre Lakes Golf Course was designed by Gary Panks, ASGCA. It was listed in the Golf Digest as a top executive course in the United States, and was considered by many the top executive course in Arizona. Executive courses are popular among some golfers because they are shorter, less challenging, take less time to play, and generally cost less to play. The course hosted several tournaments.
  • Presley established the CC&Rs for the Country Club Course and the Lakes Golf Course in 1992 to protect them from land speculators.
  • In June 2006, an investor group headed by Wilson Gee, a Los Angeles area financier, acquired the Lakes and the Country Club courses for $5.6 million.
  • In 2008, Gee announced his intention to build apartments on the course. His plans meet stiff opposition.
  • In May 2013, Gee closed the Lakes course, claiming financial losses.  Pulte Corp., a national home builder, joined with Gee’s group with a plan to build in-fill homes.
  • Two homeowners near the Lakes course filed a breach of contract lawsuit in October 2014 against the course owner, citing the owners’ obligation to run the property as a golf course as required by the CC&Rs.
  • n 2015, Pulte pulls out of the project.   
  • In June 2015, Gee’s company agreed to sell the Lakes Golf Course to The True Life Corp. for $9 million plus an accrued property tax liability of $1.3 million. True Life put down $750,000 down; the rest is financed by the seller and payable if the project goes through. True Life could back out of the project forfeit its down payment and; then the land would revert to Gee’s group.
  • True Life announced its concept for The Farm at Ahwatukee in early August 2016.  The concept calls for about 300 residences centered on an agriculture theme. Details about the project are sparse; no enforceable commitments have been presented.
  • In 2016, Judge John Hannah affirms that the CC&Rs require that the property must be used as a golf course.
  • True Life launches a public relations and marketing campaign to persuade more than 51 percent of homeowners in the benefited area to agree to change the CC&Rs. According to the CC&Rs themselves, the CC&Rs can only be changed by a majority of homeowners in the benefited area. 
  • Judge Hannah was expected to rule in June 2017 how True Life could comply with his order that the property can only be used as a golf course.
  • In April 2017, True Life persuaded the judge to allow them to argue in court that changed economic circumstances warrant a change in the CC&Rs.
  • Oral arguments on True Life’s request to overrule homeowner wishes are in October, with a decision sometime after that.