Stoneybrook West community to decide fate of golf course

Homeowners are voting on whether to enter a lease agreement with Kemper Sports to reopen the golf course.

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  • | 10:04 p.m. July 14, 2021
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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Stoneybrook West homeowners are in the process of a vote that could determine whether the golf course will be brought back to its fully functional state again.

Golf course-management company Kemper Sports has expressed interest in leasing and operating the course. Now, homeowners have until July 19 to decide whether they want to agree to that lease and its terms.



It’s been a couple of tumultuous years for the Stoneybrook West Golf & Country Club, with various twists and turns on the path toward the homeowners finally winning control of the golf course. That happened March 16, when the city of Winter Garden purchased the course for $2 million to transfer it to the community. Stoneybrook West homeowners are repaying that loan via a special assessment over the span of 20 years.

Since then, the community has been working to get the property cleaned up, HOA President Dennis Armstrong said.

“There were some environmental issues — over 100 old golf cart tires sitting there — and we got all those cleaned up,” Armstrong said. “There was a bunch of old, 55-gallon drums of motor oil stored in the maintenance building, and we got rid of all that. We hired a company to do the mowing, and they’ve been working on getting the grass cut and trimming done and all of that.”

As part of the deal with the community and in addition to the special assessment, homeowners agreed to pay $1 per day per home to go toward maintaining the property as open or green space — meaning cutting the grass, trimming the trees and edging the cart paths. With 1,225 homes, that adds up to about $440,000 per year. 

“As part of that whole situation, the homeowners said, ‘Well, we really want you to go out and see if there’s any way you can bring golf back to Stoneybrook West,’” Armstrong said. “‘We bought our homes because they were on a golf course, and a lot of us are golfers and would like to see golf back in the community.’

“The bottom line, of course, was the majority of them were not willing to pay the kind of money it would cost to bring the golf course back,” he said. “The numbers that we heard was that the minimum amount to maintain the property as a golf course was around $800,000 to $1 million.”

The problem is the golf course has not been maintained in more than two-and-one-half years. Armstrong said the HOA was told that just to refurbish the course and get it into playable condition could take anywhere from $2 million to $4 million. 

“We went out and tried to see if we could find people that would spend their own money to fix it up and operate it as an ongoing business,” Armstrong said. “We talked to a number of big-name operators, we talked to some small operators, probably talked to in excess of 15 different entities. … We ended up with four different groups that actually submitted letters of intent that said, ‘We’re interested in coming to Stoneybrook, and we think there’s money to be made here in the golf business, and we’re willing to invest our money to make that happen.’”



One of those was Kemper Sports, which operates more than 100 facilities throughout the United States.

Armstrong said the HOA negotiated a letter of intent to initiate a lease agreement with them. Part of that agreement requires the community giving Kemper Sports the $440,000 being collected annually to help cover their cost in maintaining the property.

“They’ve committed to invest somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million in our property here to upgrade the clubhouse facility, to refurbish and repair the golf club property, and to bring golf back to Stoneybrook West,” he said. “As part of our agreement with the residents, we said we would hold another vote: ‘Are you in favor of bringing golf back to Stoneybrook West with this lease with Kemper Sports, or don’t you want to bring golf back?’ There’s folks that want golf and folks that don’t want golf.”

“As part of our agreement with the residents, we said we would hold another vote: ‘Are you in favor of bringing golf back to Stoneybrook West with this lease with Kemper Sports, or don’t you want to bring golf back?’” — Dennis Armstrong


Armstrong said there are two types of rent to which Kemper Sports has agreed: base rent and incentive rent. Base rent would be 3% of gross revenues from the golf club. Kemper Sports asked that those monies be put into a capital improvement fund to be used for improvements to the course and clubhouse — with input from the HOA.

For incentive rent, Kemper Sports would pay the HOA 5% of any revenues earned in excess of $2 million, or 10% of revenues in excess of $2.5 million. The initial rental term would be for 10 years, with an option for Kemper Sports to extend for another 10 years.

“At the end of 10 years — if they select not to extend — we would get a fully operational golf course back and, hopefully, certainly in much better shape than what we have out there now because they’re going to spend ... their money in fixing it up,” Armstrong said.

Among other efforts, Armstrong said the HOA held a Q-and-A session at the community clubhouse, and Kemper Sports also gave a presentation via Zoom that more than 200 residents attended. 

If homeowners vote in the affirmative, the goal is to have the lease agreement signed by Aug. 1. Armstrong said that’s mainly because Kemper Sports would want to begin restoring the course as soon as possible so it would be in a position to reopen in peak golf season.

Should the vote fail to pass, Armstrong said the board will move forward with general maintenance projects currently on hold, including trimming trees and repairing the pedestrian bridge.

“We already have proposals, we already know what the cost of those projects would be, but we’ve made the decision to hold off on them until this vote is completed,” he said.



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