Nevada, California Judges Mandate Care for Idle Golf Courses

By | November 5th, 2015

An Administrative Hearing Officer has ruled that Oasis Ranch LLC violated a city ordinance when it erected a chain-link fence around Rancho Mirage (Calif.) Country Club, and must remove it. In Las Vegas, a judge ruled that the owners of Silverstone Golf Club must begin maintaining the property after residents began complaining in September about the golf course falling into neglect.

The new owner of the Rancho Mirage (Calif.) Country Club has been told to tear down a fence surrounding the golf course, after Administrative Hearing Officer Rod Fick has ruled that Oasis Ranch LLC violated a city ordinance banning chain-link fences, the Palm Springs, Calif.-based Desert Sun reported.

Ronald Richards, a lawyer and representing agent for Oasis Ranch, which purchased the golf course earlier this year, said he will appeal the decision to Riverside County Superior Court. The October 29 hearing on Richards’ appeal to the notice to stop putting up the fence was presided over by an officer hired by the city, the Desert Sun reported.

“I will appeal to have it heard in a real court where a judge hears the case and won’t be paid by one of the parties,” Richards said.

The city’s municipal code defines the process for the hearing, which states that it will be presided over by the city manager or appointed designee, city Code Compliance Manager Sandra Johnson said Wednesday.

“To assure there was no impartiality, the city elected to hire a third-party firm for the purposes of contracting services of an impartial hearing officer on the city’s behalf,” Johnson said. “The compensation was not contingent upon the outcome of the hearing.”

Johnson issued Oasis Ranch a notice to stop installing the fence, deemed a “public nuisance,” on September 25, which Richards appealed. The city argued at last week’s hearing in the Rancho Mirage Public Library that Oasis started installing the fence around the perimeter of the golf course without obtaining the necessary permits, the Desert Sun reported.

Richardson contends that the fence was already partially up by the time the city issued its notice to stop installation. Under city code banning chain-link fences, property owners have 270 days to remove those fences already in place, regardless of whether it’s partially or fully installed, he said.

However, Fick ruled that “this matter was clearly not ‘existing chain link fencing,’ as required by the code.” Richards mentioned his own safety issues in installing the fence without a city permit, citing the lakes on the course as liabilities should a child, for example, wander onto the grounds and fall into the water, the Desert Sun reported.

In his ruling, Fick also ordered that Oasis Ranch pay the two $100 fines for violating city codes and reimburse the city for attorney fees. Jones said he didn’t know the amount for those fees Wednesday, the Desert Sun reported.

Beverly Hills-based Oasis Ranch LLC bought the golf course earlier this year. The course was closed in June and owners soon after announced plans to use the property for residential development, the Desert Sun reported.

Since closing the 30-year-old, 18-hole course, Oasis Ranch has let the course turf die. The city’s code enforcement officers have issued a variety of citations to Oasis Ranch over lack of landscape maintenance; overgrown trees obstructing rights of way; fire hazard conditions created by lack of irrigation; and more, City Attorney Steve Quintanilla has said.

Members of the HOA recently filed a lawsuit against Oasis Ranch, Richards and partner Michael Schlesinger are seeking up to $39 million in damage they say comes from decreased property values. Homeowners, however, lost in their effort to stop Oasis Ranch from auctioning the items in the clubhouse, Richards said.

In Las Vegas, a judge has ruled that the owners of Silverstone Golf Club must begin maintaining the property after it has fallen into neglect, the Las Vegas-based KTNV Channel 13 News reported.  

Desert Lifestyles LLC purchased the property in September, and since then, homeowners in the area have complained the golf course is brown and neglected. On Tuesday, a judge ordered a preliminary injunction, forcing the new owners to restore the golf course, KTNV reported.  

C&RB reported on the clashes between the residents and owners of Silverstone GC in September (“‘Rowdy’ Residents Stand Up to Silverstone GC Sale”).

Legal representation for the homeowners who live along the course are calling it a win. “We got everything we asked for,” said Erika Pike Turner, the attorney for the homeowners. “The homeowners asked for the golf course to be restored and that’s what happened.”  

But attorneys for the new owners, Desert Lifestyles, are also calling it a win. “When you hear the conclusion, a preliminary injunction was granted, you have to drill down to what wasn’t granted,” said attorney Ronald Richards.  

Richards argued that even though the judge ordered Desert Lifestyles to restore the property, the judge didn’t force the new owners to maintain the property as a golf course, which would have disturbed their future business plans. Desert Lifestyles didn’t buy the property to maintain it, but to develop it, Richards told KTNV.  

Desert Lifestyles plans to appeal that decision, KTNV reported.

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