(Photo by Drew Martin, The Island Packet)
After a lengthy fight to stop development of the course, homeowners in the Bluffton, S.C. community voted overwhelmingly to go ahead with the purchase, with a planned closing on December 15th. The homeowners would then have five years to pay their assessed value for the purchase. The course had previously been operated by Brown Golf for the LLC that owned it, but was closed in April 2020 because of “unsustainable” operating losses that were exacerbated by the initial pain of the pandemic, according to an executive with the management firm.
After a lengthy fight to stop their golf course from being paved over and developed into apartment buildings, shops and a hotel (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/neighbors-fight-possible-redevelopment-of-island-west-gc/), homeowners in the Island West community of Bluffton, S.C. have overwhelmingly agreed to purchase the course, HOA President Richard Myers confirmed to The Island Packet of Hilton Head, S.C. on November 5th..
But the decision to save the course comes at a high cost, The Island Packet reported, with the HOA, representing 258 homes, agreeing to pay the owner $1.45 million, Myers said.
Though the 18-hole golf course, which has been closed since April, sits within the gated Island West community, the residents did not own it, The Island Packet reported. But when the proposal was floated earlier this year to rezone parts of the 145-acre course to allow for 61 acres of residential, hotel and commercial development, the neighbors sprung into action.
They worried that impervious surfaces would increase the frequent flooding they’ve already witnessed in nearby developments, The Island Packet reported, and said the values of their homes would plummet if the golf course were replaced by commercial development.
In their fight against the rezoning, the neighbors contacted Beaufort County Council members; met with The Reed Group, the proposed developer; and retained S.C. Rep. Weston Newton, R-Bluffton, as their attorney, The Island Packet reported
When the plan to save the golf course came up for a vote, and with 82.6% of property owners voting, the community agreed 203-10 to purchase the golf course, Myers told The Island Packet. “It’s been a long journey, but it was great to have the full support of the community, and the vote shows that,” he said.
The community’s next step is to obtain the proper financing, likely a loan from the bank, to purchase the course, The Island Packet reported. The HOA will also have to revise its covenants to allow for the course to officially become part of the community, Myers said.
The ultimate goal, he added, was to “Get [the course] operating, so we don’t have to worry about this in the future.”
Todd Brown, Executive Vice President of Brown Golf, which previously operated the golf course at Island West and others in the area, such as Pinecrest in Bluffton and Palmetto Hall and Dolphin Head on Hilton Head Island, did not return a call for comment after the HOA’s decision to purchase Island West was made, The Island Packet reported..
In May, Brown had said that the golf course has been closed since April, because “It was costing a lot of money, and it was not sustaining itself,” with the coronavirus pandemic adding to the pain. The company had laid off employees, Brown added, but he wouldn’t say how many.
Jim Cuff, an Island West homeowner and chair of the community’s Committee to Stop Rezoning, said recent reports from multiple sources on golf’s resurgence during the COVID-19 pandemic helped him and others decide to vote in favor of the purchase, The Island Packet reported.
Myers added that he did not have “any worries” about the golf course struggling to remain profitable.
“We feel confident in the decision to go this route,” he said. “We feel confident that the operation of the course will help our property values and protect us against any unwanted development. [This was] the best outcome [because] I think our property values would have been drastically impacted [by the rezoning].”
Cuff and Myers said the community hopes to close on the purchase by December 15th, The Island Packet reported. Homeowners would then have five years to pay the assessed value of the purchase, although Myers would not say how much each homeowner would have to pay.
“The HOA board is just really glad that the community supported our recommendation and voted in favor of the purchase,” he said. “We put the message out, and we’re glad the community believed in our judgment.”
According to county tax records, the owner of the golf course is listed as 40 Island West Drive LLC, The Island Packet reported, and the registered agent for the course is listed as Capitol Corporate Services Inc., according to business filings.
Several Beaufort County documents involving the Island West Golf Club refer to a company called “Topper Golf World LLC” and are signed by Joseph V. Topper Jr., The Island Packet reported. But Todd Brown of Brown Golf, previously refused to comment on who is behind the LLC, “to keep his name out of it.”