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Westchase CDD to Hold Jan. 9 Vote on Possible Purchase of Westchase Golf Course

At the Jan. 9 meeting of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD), the district’s five supervisors could make one of the most important and consequential decisions in the history of Westchase.

At that meeting, supervisors are expected to consider a vote on letter of intent to purchase the Westchase Golf Course for $4 million. Over the weekend, emails began flying in Westchase about the matter. WOW has closely followed the district’s negotiations with the owner since November. Appearing below, WOW attempts to answer significant questions about the potential purchase, the details surrounding it and the district’s motivation.

How am I hearing about this now? When did this all happen?

At the Westchase Community Development District’s (CDD’s) November meeting Supervisor Brian Ross stated he had heard the course was for sale. Supervisors voted 4-1, with Supervisor Barbara Griffith opposed, to have Supervisor Greg Chesney reach out to the current owner, Nick Neubauer of Chicago, to explore the issue. WOW covered the matter in its CDD news coverage in the December WOW. Subsequently, both Chesney and Westchase Community Association (WCA) President Ruben Collazo have worked closely on researching the matter, touring the grounds and negotiating a potential sale with its owner.

What are the details of the potential purchase?

The details won’t be finalized until the CDD Board votes to approve a letter of intent to purchase, which may occur at the Jan. 9 CDD meeting. That meeting will be held at 4 p.m. at the WCA Office Building on Parley Drive. According to details shared by CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney, the purchase price is $4 million, considerably lower than the price Neubauer originally paid for the course. Mr. Neubauer has expressed an interest in holding the note for the purchase of the site, with payments to him spread out over approximately 13 years.

If the CDD votes for the letter of intent to purchase, is the purchase a done deal?

No, not by any measure. Here is an important thing to remember about the letter of intent to purchase: It simply secures the property from sale to another potential buyer while the district investigates whether it wishes to close on the property. Supervisors have requested a due diligence period of six months to make the final decision. During this due diligence period, depending upon community support and their further research of the property, the district can elect to abandon the purchase with no penalty to the district.

Why would the CDD be interested in buying a golf course?

As the popularity of the sport has shrunk in recent decades, hundreds of golf courses across the United States have closed, opening up many of them for housing and office developments. According to financial records provided by the owner to the district, the Westchase Golf Course is losing tens of thousands of dollars annually. Some CDD Supervisors are interested in exploring the acquisition of the course to protect it from development into additional homes, apartments and townhomes or commercial developments. Owning it would also resolve a constant headache in recent years: the proper maintenance of ponds that are owned by the district but which lie adjacent to Westchase homes and the proper maintenance of the golf course property along Westchase’s right of way, which have been in some supervisors’ view, below Westchase standards.

Are there other CDDs in the state that own golf courses?

Yes, Westchase District Manager Andy Mendenhall manages another CDD that recently purchased its golf course in order to keep it from being sold to another entity. CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney has studied that sale and has approached the company that that district hired to determine that golf course's potential for profitability. It is likely the Westchase district will use a similar agreement with the company to study the financial impact of the course's acquisition.

Would the WCA ever own it?

WCA President Ruben Collazo is a strong advocate for getting the course property under control by Westchase residents to prevent its development. He has stated that if the CDD doesn’t purchase it, the WCA certainly would consider doing so. There are pros and cons for ownership by each entity. WCA ownership would allow the club house and property to be closed to anyone who is not a WCA member. CDD ownership, however, would mean that no property taxes would have to be paid on the property, lowering its cost to homeowners although it may mean, like other parks owned by the CDD, that is it open to the public if it is ever used as a park.

If the CDD owned it, would it still be operated as a golf course?

That is a question whose answer may not be determined until after the letter of intent is approved or even after its purchase. In the short term, based on supervisors’ comments at their December workshop on parks, it is likely the district will continue operating it as a golf course. During that timeframe, the district will investigate what investments it would have to make to ensure the course operates profitably or at a smaller loss. The CDD would not manage the course; that would be left to a management company they would hire. If supervisors determined maintaining it as a course is not financially feasible, it would cease operating as a course.

If the district decides to stop using it as a golf course, what would it become?

Supervisors of the district have expressed no interest in developing the property or selling it to a developer. The only non-golf option they have discussed is the potential for turning portions of it into walking, biking and hiking trails and converting some greens back into forest or conservation lands. Every supervisor who has spoken on the matter has emphasized the importance of taking the concerns of homeowners who purchased properties adjacent to the course into consideration when determining the district’s long-term use of the property. The short discussions of converting it to trail use have emphasized the importance of protecting homeowners’ privacy.

Will my CDD assessments go up if the CDD purchases the course?

While the answer to that question depends upon the land’s future use, supervisors have noted two issues that should help minimize the purchase’s impact on Westchase homeowners’ CDD assessments. First, with the conclusion of the renovation of Westchase parks, the coming year will see approximately $370,000 in assessments that are not yet committed to any project. These funds could be applied to the purchase of the course or to new landscaping plans the district is currently entertaining. Second, between 2017-2018, CDD debt assessments for homeowners in The Fords, The Greens and The Bridges, representing almost half of Westchase homes, will come to an end, lowering CDD assessments by $600-$1,000 or more. Even if the district did purchase the golf course and had to increase its Operations and Maintenance Assessments to cover the purchase costs, these homes would still likely see an overall CDD assessment decrease.

Why hasn’t WOW covered this better?

WOW has actually closely followed the negotiations and Chesney and Collazo have regularly shared updates with WOW staff. Once WOW learned that significant negotiations for a letter of intent to purchase were underway it instituted its typical policy for handling CDD land purchases. It committed to placing a temporary news embargo on the matter to give the district time to negotiate a purchase. WOW did so with the provision that the letter of intent included a long enough due diligence period so that affected homeowners could respond and weigh in on the matter prior to the execution of the sale. WOW staff implemented the embargo to protect Westchase homeowners. When the Harbor Links VM circulated an email about the purchase this weekend, WOW informed supervisors that there was no point in continuing the news embargo.

WOW has used a news embargo when covering CDD acquisition of property in recent years because of a past incident. Approximately a decade ago, the CDD entered into negotiations with Westchase’s developer over the purchase of land at the southern tip of Montague Street in West Park Village for the developer’s asking price of $160,000. In its news coverage, WOW mentioned these negotiations. A Greens resident, reading WOW’s coverage, contacted the developer, purchased the parcel for the full price of $160,000 and then turned around and offered it to the CDD at a premium. The CDD declined to make the purchase. That land, originally considered for a CDD-owned community dog park, is now owned by a developer who has announced his intent to build townhomes.

WOW held off on publishing the Westchase Gold Course purchase news to ensure the district could conclude its negotiations in the most advantageous way for the community. With the embargo lifted, WOW will now provide information as it becomes available.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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