With a new leasee, it seems Stoneybrook West residents have reason for optimism regarding their community’s shuttered golf club.
But now, the work to shape the community’s future begins.
The commission at its April 14 meeting approved a resolution that allows the city to adopt a non-ad valorem assessment to fund costs associated with city actions in rectifying and mitigating the deterioration of the Stoneybrook West Golf Club property. Moreover, the resolution ensures the property would be preserved as open space, as a golf course or for other public recreational uses.
Last month, the Stoneybrook West Board of Directors issued an update on the fate of its golf course. In a letter to the residents of the community, the board wrote:
“Over the past several weeks, members of the (board) have met with six parties regarding leasing the golf course. This week, two of those parties presented their offers to the Golf Course Committee. From that meeting, the committee recommended to the Board of Directors that we accept a Letter of Intent and proceed to negotiate a lease with XB USA, led by Rocky Hodge.
“On Thursday, the (board) voted 5-1 … to approve the LOI with XB USA and pursue negotiating a lease. The terms of the proposed deal are very similar to the Kemper deal and include: contributions from the residents for a period of time (though the proposed amount is over $1M less than what the Kemper deal required), Revenue-share type rent, triple net lease (they pay for all costs, including insurance and taxes), and golf and restaurant discounts for the community.”
During the City Commission’s discussion of its resolution, commissioners and residents raised concerns regarding what they felt was language regarding acceptable uses.
“It does leave some language in there that can be used for things other than a golf course,” District 2 Commissioner Ron Mueller said.
District 4 Commissioner Colin Sharman clarified if that was the case, the commission would have to readdress the item if it was anything other than a green space or a golf course.
Stoneybrook West resident Mark Cressman said he favored language that gave residents more leeway.
“If there are sections or portions of this course that are amenable to either being converted to some type of commercial type property … if there’s some opportunity to then change a portion of this property into a commercial property, such that then the residents can then sell off that section, to eventually pay down a note, if you will, I think that makes perfect sense,” he said. “So to restrict it, say it can only be a golf course, it can only be a green space … puts too much of a burden on the property and on the HOA.”
Cressman suggested the city give the HOA a chance to explore other opportunities with what they can do with the course, suggesting that the HOA be allowed to operate it like a business.
His other concern, rested with the upkeep of the property — a longtime concern of Stoneybrook West residents.
“I don’t know of anybody sitting here yet that has gone out and walked that course,” Cressman said. “If this is going to be kept as green space, the only thing I’m asking the commission … is make sure that the property is being maintained. It’s in much better shape than it was before … but it’s still not being maintained, and there’s still problems on the course, and I think it needs to be inspected.”
HOA President Dennis Armstrong said a majority of the residents did not want to see any type of development, especially commercial, and thanked the commission for its hard work on the resolution.
Other residents said the HOA has not been putting in the level of work they originally expected and mentioned concern for the high homeowner’s association fees.
“The golf course is not being maintained,” Sonja Cressman said. “I don’t know if it’s an issue between the city and the HOA, but there’s many things that are devaluing our homes rather than increasing our price.”
However, she said she is not as worried about the HOA costs but rather more about the city restricting allowed uses.
“Most likely, the golf course is never going to be a golf course,” she said. “Many people in Stoneybrook believe that, but it’s going to cost millions … to revamp it into a golf course. They’re asking ... for us to contribute about half-million dollars a year just to the maintenance of the golf course ongoing.”
“The golf course property is being maintained,” Armstrong said. “Certainly, we’re not maintaining it at the level of a golf course, but the grass is being mowed. … We’re currently working with a vendor to get the irrigation system back up and running. We’re currently negotiating with another leasee about taking over operation and managing the club property, including the clubhouse.”
The ongoing discussion dates back to 2018 when the Stoneybrook West Golf & Country Club was first shuttered.
On March 16, 2021, homeowners were thrilled 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.
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.
In July 2021, homeowners had the choice to vote on whether to enter a lease agreement with Kemper Sports to restore and reopen the golf course.
At the end of July, homeowners in the community voted overwhelmingly in favor of entering a lease agreement with Kemper Sports to revitalize the shuttered golf course.
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.
Winter Garden city leaders then held a special meeting in August 2021 to discuss revisions to the purchase and sale agreement.
QUALIFYING PERIOD EXTENDED
City commissioners heard the first reading of an amendment to the Winter Garden code of ordinances relating to municipal elections.
According to City Clerk Angee Grimmage, the city’s timeframe for registering candidates currently conflicts with the Florida statute, which requires that the county mail out vote-by-mail ballots no later than 45 days before the general election.
Currently, the 45th day before the March general election falls a couple of days within the current city qualifying period. The proposed amendment sets the period back by two weeks.
The commission heard the first reading of an ordinance amending the Winter Garden code of ordinances concerning connection to water and wastewater systems and requirements for utility services to properties located outside of the city limits.
The current code states “the city may furnish sewer and water service outside the corporate limits of the city, within the discretion of the City Commission.”
Community Development Director Steve Pash said the only exception is for the properties in Oakland being provided wastewater services.
EXPANDING THE LAKE ROBERTS MSBU
Commissioners heard the first reading of an ordinance consenting to the expansion of the Orange County Lake Roberts municipal service benefit unit to include certain properties surrounding Lake Reaves located within the city of Winter Garden.
The ordinance also addresses the levy of special assessments on the same benefited properties to pay a portion of the costs of lake maintenance, water quality improvement and cleaning.
Williams said the Orange County Commission approved the amendment March 22.
IN OTHER NEWS
- Mayor John Rees read two proclamations; one designating April as Florida’s Water Conservation Month and another designating April as World Autism Month and April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day.
- Sustainability Coordinator Donna Corbus announced the 2022 Drop Savors Contest winners and gave a presentation on how to prevent damage from fats, oils, and grease, stating that 55% of sewage backup calls are related to “FOG” in Winter Garden.
- The commission approved the special event Strong Family Fun Day by the Polis Institute for Saturday, May 7, and a special event by the American Legion for Memorial Day Monday, May 30.
- The commission approved two right-of-way acquisitions: 160 E. Plant St. and 210 S. Dillard St.
- The commission approved a professional services agreement for building permit inspection with M.T. Causley LLC utilizing a piggyback agreement from the town of Astatula.
- After some discussion, commissioners approved the condemnation of a building located at 15 S. Main St., subject to an evaluation by the city manager.
- The commission approved an amendment to the professional services agreement with Fishback Dominick LLP with an effective date of March 1.
- Commissioners approved a resolution relating to the funding of repair and restoration of the stormwater and drainage management infrastructure and systems for the Lakeview Reserve subdivision lots one through 159.
- The commission approved an underground conversion agreement and utility reimbursement agreement with Duke Energy for the Dillard Street reconstruction project.