A private partnership currently owns the 366 acres that include the club and its 27 holes of golf in Sarasota, Fla., but the partners are looking to either sell or develop the land. Homeowners are discussing buying the land, but some believe the price, $16.75 million, is inflated.
The land that contains University Park Country Club in Sarasota, Fla., and its 27 holes of golf could be redeveloped into housing if the homeowners fail to acquire the acreage, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.
A private partnership owns 366 acres, land that primarily holds University Park Country Club, but includes some 100 acres of ponds, roads, infrastructure and small parcels. The homeowners do not currently control that land, the Herald-Tribune reported.
“The residents I represent,” said John Whyte, President of the homeowners association, “all come back and tell me the reason they buy here, the greatest No. 1 thing here, is the natural beauty. We want to protect that … have it under our control.”
Residents want to gain control of the land to preserve the green space and protect their home values and their community’s beauty. That is the undisputed and paramount goal. Yet a controversy has split residents, the Herald-Tribune reported.
A committee of property owners called the University Park Planning Group (UPPG) worked out what they consider the best viable plan for purchasing the land: the creation of a recreation district. A community survey conducted by the UPPG indicated that 85% of residents support the plan to establish the district, which would issue bonds for the land purchase, the Herald-Tribune reported.
“Needless to say, the survey results are extremely positive,” Whyte wrote in an email to residents, “and indicate a clear majority of residents believe the recommendations presented by the Planning Group provide a clear path to a resident-owned and resident-controlled community.”
But some homeowners are battling the idea of buying the country for what they deem to be an inflated, negotiated price—$16.75 million—and the formation of a government entity with bonding authority through referendums. Other factors underscore their opposition, the Herald-Tribune reported.
“There are a lot of things that really don’t add up about why we should be paying so much money for the golf course,” said Joe Moran, an attorney, University Park resident and spokesman for a group of disgruntled homeowners. “The group that I’m involved with is not opposed to acquiring the golf course at all. We just don’t want to pay too much money for it.”
John Neal said he would close the club immediately and develop the land should the negotiated agreement fall through. “The question which we asked ourselves, and which we then asked John (Whyte) and others is whether or not land seeks its highest and best use,” Neal said. “So if the homeowners value their land, they should have the opportunity to buy it. But if they don’t value the land, then it must have a higher use, an alternative use.”
As proposed, the recreation district’s bond issue would total $24 million. That includes $3 million for bond security and capital reserve, and $3.5 million for non-golf course maintenance and improvements. On average, homeowners would pay $99 monthly over the 30-year life of the bond with the exact amount calculated by a home’s market value, the Herald-Tribune reported.
But the district could add to those assessments with future referendums and bond sales, said Moran, the attorney and spokesman for a group of disgruntled homeowners.
Proponents recently began circulating petitions for resident sign-off on the establishment of the district. Those signatures must then be verified by the Manatee County elections supervisor before the petitions are forwarded to the Manatee County Commission for approval. Should all that occur, the district would officially exist, and a bond proposal could then be presented to the courts. Upon judicial consent, a referendum would go before the registered voters in University Park, the Herald-Tribune reported.
“We expect it all to be completed by this summer,” Whyte said.
Pat Neal and Rolf Pasold bought the vacant University Park property around 1980 and opened the community in 1991. The partners retained possession and control of the country club and some small parcels of undeveloped land. The community’s governing documents informed home buyers that the club and land could be sold without their consent at any time, the Herald-Tribune reported.
In 2007, John Neal paid his father $4.01 million for his half of that acreage. Pasold’s heirs own the other half. The new partnership changed the country club’s status from private to semi-private, opening the doors to the public and creating a larger revenue stream, the Herald-Tribune reported.
Today, after maintenance and other costs are covered by club membership dues and outside revenues, the country club pumps profits into the Neal-Pasold partnership, Neal said during a roundtable interview with other principals involved in the formation of the district, the Herald-Tribune reported.
Currently, there are 325 golf club members. Tennis and social memberships bring the club ranks to 1,100. The club’s owners want to either sell or develop the land, the Herald-Tribune reported.