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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jul. 15, 2020 1 year ago

Foreclosure imminent for Stoneybrook West golf course

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Realtor/investor Steve Fusilier is working with the city and Stoneybrook West HOA to create a plan for restoring the course.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

Restoration of the Stoneybrook West golf course could be coming soon, but not without a multimillion-dollar price tag.

Steve Fusilier, a Realtor and investor who recently purchased the mortgage note on the course, said he has initiated the process of foreclosure and is working on obtaining a writ of possession to assume ownership. Miguel Vidal — who also owned Legends Golf and Country Club in Clermont — assumed ownership of the club last spring but incurred a multitude of code violations because of lack of maintenance.

Vidal still has the right for possession and redemption should he choose to pay off the debt. However, Fusilier said that hasn’t happened yet, and he cannot begin any work until the courts grant him possession of the course. He’s optimistic that should happen within 30 to 45 days.

“We’ve tried to work with the current mortgagee, and unfortunately, he hasn’t been proactive with it, so what we’re trying to do is make sure that the golf course doesn’t slide off the mountain, because it’ll get to a certain point where there’s no return,” Fusilier said. “Right now, we have a point of return, but if it lasts too much longer … then it may be in a position where financially it just doesn’t make sense to put the money back into it no matter what. That’s our big push, and that was our conversation with the community.”

Fusilier met via Zoom Wednesday, July 8, with Winter Garden staff, Stoneybrook West residents and the homeowners association to discuss options moving forward. On the top of the list is revitalizing the golf-course community in which the homeowners purchased their properties.

“We’ve got a lot of different options and really (are) just letting them pick what fits best for the community and the outside area,” Fusilier said. “We’ve kind of laid the candy bucket on the table and said, ‘Pick what you like and tell us, and we’ll get a game plan and move forward with it.’”

Although there are no concrete plans, the think tank is brimming with ideas. Fusilier hopes to bring to fruition the renovation of the 17,000-square-foot clubhouse. His vision is to turn it into a multi-restaurant venue — a pizza restaurant/brewery concept, as well as a Dexter’s restaurant — along with a pro shop. This would include outdoor seating.

“We’ve had over probably 100 to 150 community members reach out with some unbelievable weighted conversations and support,” he said. “They realize they’ve got a problem. … We’re trying to save (the golf course), trying to get a game plan that makes sense perpetually to keep it going and always have a golf course in the city of Winter Garden — and at the doorsteps of the golf-course community all those residents purchased in.”

Fusilier estimates it will cost several million dollars to get the golf course back up to standards — which could take at least six to eight months — and to get the clubhouse renovated, along with other necessary maintenance. Some development, he said, is a conversation that has to happen to make this a reality.

“Their goal is to keep the course and not do anything, but … without some support from the community in the area and some inherent dollars that are in the current entitlements of the property, there’s no way it’s going to be successful,” Fusilier said. “There’s only so many golfers that … golf it per day. If you have 40 or 50 golfers a day, do the math — $18 to $30 a round, there’s no way you can pay for 165 acres and a 17,000-square-foot commercial center and a golf course and all the other stuff that goes along with it.”

At the July 9 Winter Garden commission meeting, City Manager Mike Bollhoefer updated commissioners on Fusilier’s vision.

“To make this work financially, he would need to be able to develop some property — townhomes, apartments, nothing’s set in stone yet or been designed,” Bollhoefer said. “At this point, the city’s listened to what the gentleman has to say and the HOA is listening, but it’s still an unknown. But I think the good news is getting it away from Miguel, getting (it into) another hand, I think we’re at least going to get closer and closer to a resolution.”

Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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