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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jul. 28, 2021 1 year ago

Stoneybrook West homeowners approve agreement with Kemper Sports

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Homeowners in the community voted overwhelmingly in favor of entering a lease agreement with Kemper Sports to revitalize the shuttered golf course.
by: Danielle Hendrix Former Associate Editor

The Stoneybrook West homeowners have spoken, and they want an operating golf course again.

The community recently held a vote on whether to enter into a lease agreement with Kemper Sports, a golf-course management company that had expressed interest not only in leasing the course for its operations but also investing in the community by restoring the course to its former glory.

HOA President Dennis Armstrong said out of 1,225 homes in the community, 792 households — or 65% of residents — responded. Of those, an overwhelming majority — 94% of respondents — indicated they were in favor of the deal. Only 6% disapproved.

Although Armstrong felt the initiative would pass, he didn’t foresee it doing so via landslide.

“In talking with folks and the general buzz around the community, if you will, it seemed like most folks that you talked to seemed to be in favor of the proposal,” he said. “In a vote, you never know for sure until it’s actually over, and I have to say I was astonished at the degree of support. I thought it would pass, but I never in my wildest imagination would have guessed it would be that high of a number.”

The fate of the Stoneybrook West Golf & Country Club has been in question since it shuttered in 2018. But in March, the city of Winter Garden purchased the course for $2 million, with the intent of transferring it to the HOA. Homeowners will repay that loan through a special assessment for the next 20 years.

For the last week, the city and HOA have been working together to have the property conveyed to the HOA via special warranty deed. On Thursday, July 22, the Winter Garden City Commission approved a purchase and sale agreement to do so. Meanwhile, the Stoneybrook West HOA Board voted on whether to approve that contract Thursday, July 29, after press time.

Armstrong said Kemper Sports seems to be enthusiastic about moving forward. In fact, the goal was to have the property conveyed to the HOA and the lease agreement with Kemper Sports signed by Aug. 1.

“The sooner they get things going, the quicker they can start recouping their investment,” Armstrong said. “They’re definitely a big player in the golf industry and have been at it for some 40 years. That, I think, was a big factor with our residents also, that they were a known entity and have a proven track record and certainly deep financial pockets backing. I think all of those things helped to make the residents more comfortable that this was a good way (to go).”

Ever since Stoneybrook homeowners approved purchasing the property earlier this year, some minor improvements have been made. Armstrong said the course has been getting mowed and looks “somewhat better than it has in a long time,” although there is still much more work to be done. 

“We are making progress,” he said. “There were some things that the board had talked about doing — like getting the palm trees trimmed and some other work that everybody agreed needed to be done — but we were a little hesitant to move forward with that until we knew the outcome of the Kemper vote.”

The board likely will vote soon on whether to go ahead and get those things done or wait and let Kemper Sports take care of it. In the meantime, the HOA is focused on finalizing the purchase contract with the city and the lease agreement with Kemper Sports. Revitalizing the course is something many hope will contribute to even higher property values.

“The big thing is that hopefully this will really increase everybody’s property values here in the community, whether you live on the course or not,” Armstrong said. “Certainly green space has a value, but a really well-manicured, beautiful golf course just makes everybody’s property values that much more.”

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Danielle Hendrix was an associate editor for the West Orange Times & Observer, Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com.

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