- August 3, 2021
After a couple of tumultuous years and uncertainty surrounding the fate of the Stoneybrook West Golf & Country Club, the community’s homeowners have been awarded control of the property.
On Tuesday, March 16, Judge Lori Vaughan, of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Middle District of Florida, approved a deal for the city of Winter Garden to purchase the golf course for $2 million and allow the homeowners association to take it over. Stoneybrook West homeowners will repay the city over 20 years through a special assessment.
Things were made even more interesting during the hearing when two other entities came forth with offers of $3 million each to purchase the course, City Manager Mike Bollhoefer said. However, Vaughan ruled in favor of the city and all parties involved in its deal.
“Since we went in with the offer and the trustee agreed to it, the note holder agreed to it, the HOA agreed to it … we were the four parties with standings since we’re all in agreement, (and) the judge accepted our offer of $2 million and awarded it to us,” Bollhoefer said. “That was pretty cool. That was a good move on our part, making that offer, because if not, who knows what would’ve happened at that auction.”
In early February, Fisher Auction Company announced it was appointed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to manage an auction of the golf course property, which was originally slated for Friday, March 12. Later that month, city officials decided to consult with the bankruptcy trustee regarding what it would take for the city — in partnership with the HOA — to buy the property before the auction. The answer was a $2 million price tag.
Now that the offer has been accepted, Bollhoefer said, the city is in the process of figuring out the transfer of the property to the HOA.
“We’ll transfer it to the homeowners, and they’re going to have to make up their mind what they want to do over time — the final decision of what they want to go with the golf course — and it’ll take them, I’m sure, some time to figure that out,” he said. “But now they can control their own fate. That’s the key.”
Dennis Armstrong, president of the Stoneybrook West HOA, said there were moments during the hearing in which he had no idea what decision Vaughan was leaning toward.
“She came back and said, ‘Sometimes the most money isn’t always the best offer,’ (and) that as a judge, she was supposed to look at everything and anything, and that she really felt that the best deal would be for the city and the association to prevail,” Armstrong said. “We were ecstatic about that decision, of course. … We’ve been reacting for so long, so it’ll be different to kind of actually be in the driver’s seat and be the ones that are putting the different decisions and options out there rather than just reacting to what everyone else throws at us.”
Stoneybrook homeowners voted earlier this month on two items: whether to move forward with purchasing the property, and approving changes to the HOA’s governing documents to be able to do so. It took two separate votes to achieve approval. During the second vote, Armstrong said, 75% of the homeowners voted in favor of the proposals.
In addition to the special assessment, Armstrong said, homeowners agreed to pay a dollar per day per home to go toward maintaining the property as an open or green space. This will be collected in the form of increased quarterly assessments to fund the maintenance.
“We would look and see if we could find a golf operator that might be interested in putting together some sort of a deal with us, and if we were able to find something that we thought would work, we would put that before the homeowners for a vote to see if it was something they were supportive of. We also agreed that if we did any other uses to the property, we would put that before the homeowners for their approval also. There’s all kinds of different ideas out there of what we should and could do.”
Armstrong added that the HOA has been contacted by two entities that are interested in discussing the possibility of bringing golf back to the community.
“I don’t know if it’s possible or not, but we’re certainly going to look into it and see what we can come up with,” Armstrong said.
“The good news is now … it’s good for this whole community because we don't have to worry about this golf course … and things falling apart and having a negative impact in the community,” Bollhoefer said. “I think it’s going to be good news for them long term.”