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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021 8 months ago

Stoneybrook West golf-course property up for auction

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After several years of uncertainty, Stoneybrook West Golf & Country Club will be offered for sale in an online auction next month.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

After years of turmoil and uncertainty surrounding the fate of Stoneybrook West Golf & Country Club, it is heading to the auction block next month.

Fisher Auction Company announced Monday, Feb. 1, it was appointed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to manage the auction of the Winter Garden golf course and club, located at 15501 Towne Commons Blvd. 

The auction will take place on Fisher Auction Company’s exclusive online bidding platform from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, March 12. 

Before its abrupt closure in December 2018, Stoneybrook West Golf & Country Club was ranked by GolfLink as the second-best golf course in Florida and the 27th best golf course in the nation. It had also received accolades from Golf Digest and Golf Advisor.

In January 2019, the Stoneybrook West HOA sent a letter of intent to the golf-course owners —at the time, the Davis family — expressing interest in purchasing the club. The owners reportedly declined the letter because of interest in the property from other companies.

Courtesy photo

Miguel Vidal — who also owned Legends Golf and Country Club in Clermont — assumed ownership of the club that spring but racked up code violations because of lack of maintenance. Those violations included scattering of refuse and excessive growth of grass, weeds and brush.

In June 2019, Winter Garden’s Code Enforcement Board voted to cite Vidal a fine of $2,000 per day regarding these violations. Those fines continue to pile up today, said Winter Garden City Manager Mike Bollhoefer. The city also has converted the fines into a lien on the property.

Steven Fusilier, an Orlando-based real-estate agent, purchased the note on the course in June 2020. Bollhoefer said the sale of the course and club would pay any outstanding debts, including the note Fusilier holds.

“He’s trying to collect on the outstanding note, and that’s why they’re having to sell off the golf course, to pay for the money owed him on the note,” Bollhoefer said. “I guess there’s a few other smaller outstanding debts and also the fine that’s owed to the city. The idea is they would sell off the golf course and pay off all the debtors based on where they stand in line. … It means that somebody more than likely is going to be bidding on this property to end up with ownership of the property.”

Bollhoefer added that he plans to go to the City Commission and present a staff recommendation to have the city bid on the course. Commissioners would have to give the request a stamp of approval.

Courtesy photo

“We anticipated this,” Bollhoefer said. “It’s pretty standard procedure when you do a golf course like this. (Staff) recommendation would be to bid on it, and then if we were to get ownership, then sell it back to the homeowners’ association.”

Dennis Armstrong, vice president of the Stoneybrook West Homeowners’ Association, said the HOA is still interested in purchasing the property. Armstrong said the HOA sent paperwork to all residents requesting both their permission to buy the golf course property and approval of changes to the HOA’s governing documents that would enable them to do so. There will be a special homeowners meeting later this month to hold a vote on those two questions.

“If the association is able to obtain control of the course, it would be a benefit for our community,” Armstrong said. “It’s the first step in possibly many. We’d still have to talk to the city as a whole and determine exactly what they would like to see done with the property, but step one is to get control of it. At least if we got that, we’ll have a much better opportunity to control our own destiny, if you will. … This is for us the first real opportunity that we’ve had to actually bid on the property, that it was actually offered for sale. … We were really never able to negotiate with anybody and try to reach a sale.”

 

THE CLUB

The 18-hole champion golf course at Stoneybrook West was built and designed by world-renowned golf architect Arthur Hills in 2000. The course and its 11,330-square-foot clubhouse — complete with a bar/restaurant area, event room, offices, full commercial kitchen, pro shop, covered patio area and storage rooms — sits on 152.9 acres. 

Also included in the sale is a 9,230-square-foot warehouse/maintenance building at the north end of the course with storage, maintenance area, shop, offices and adjacent storage and irrigation buildings. Furniture, fixtures and equipment are part of the deal, too.

Courtesy photo

“Our team is pleased to have the opportunity to manage the sale of this (formerly) award-winning property and to find a purchaser to bring this gem back to its glory days,” said Lamar P. Fisher, president and CEO of Fisher Auction Company. “Given its ideal location and (continually) growing golf industry, we are confident this property will draw significant interest from prospective buyers from around the country.”

Fisher said bidders must pre-qualify for the virtual auction. That includes providing a $100,000 escrow deposit 48 hours in advance of the auction. They must also fill out associated forms before receiving bidding instructions. 

The tax-assessed value of the course and club is $2.6 million, Fisher said, and there is no minimum starting bid. He estimates there might be a half-dozen bidders involved.

“This is a bankruptcy auction, and there is a trustee that has been appointed,” Fisher said. “What happens is we will sell it to the highest bidder. … On (March 16), we’ll go to court and present the offer to the judge. … Then we’ll close about 20 days after that.”

Fisher added the clubhouse is in “pretty decent shape” overall, but it will just take someone to bring back the greens and the fairways to get it operating again. A golfer himself, he’s optimistic and excited to hopefully play on the course one day.

“The HOA has been very helpful with the process, as well as the city themselves,” Fisher said. “It’s kind of a multi-partnership here with the court, HOA and the city. Everybody’s working together because the end result is we want someone to get back there and to fix it and operate it.”

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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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