JDM Partners, which bought the 85-year-old resort in Litchfield Park, Ariz. out of bankruptcy in 2009, wants to alter the layouts of the three 18-hole championship courses on the property to make room for 475 condominiums and apartments. But residents have launched an opposition campaign called Save Litchfield Park to protest anticipated traffic, pollution and school crowding, and golfers are also voicing objections to the plan, which would turn one of the courses into a par-3 layout.
The owners of The Wigwam resort in the Litchfield Park, Ariz. want to carve out significant chunks from its famed golf courses to make room for about 475 condominiums and apartments, The Arizona Republic reported. As part of the proposed changes, one of The Wigwam’s three 18-hole championship courses, the Blue Patriot, would be turned into a par-3 layout.
JDM Partners, which bought the 85-year-old resort property through a bankruptcy sale in 2009 and then completed a $7 million “rejuvenation project,” say it needs to make the changes to keep the resort viable and competitive, the Republic reported.
But nearby residents have launched an opposition campaign called Save Litchfield Park in an attempt to shut down the proposal. They don’t want the traffic, pollution and school crowding they say more residents will bring, the Republic reported.
Some golfers aren’t too happy about the plan to alter the resort’s championship courses, either.
“I would be absolutely against it,” Rod White, 73, a Canadian resident who frequently golfs at The Wigwam, told the Republic. “It would change the whole layout.”
Ultimately, the Litchfield Park City Council will have to decide whether to approve the changes, which would require general-plan amendments.
Litchfield Park Mayor Thomas Schoaf told the Republic that the city can’t take a formal position until the council hears the presentations and considers the proposals. Schoaf did allow that he’s skeptical, however.
“These requested amendments will be judged against a standard of whether the amendments protect, maintain or improve the unique social environment of life in Litchfield Park,” Schoaf told the Republic. “I personally have some serious doubts that many of these requested changes will meet that standard.”
Two meetings addressing the various golf-course plans are scheduled to be held at The Wigwam on April 10 and April 15, the Republic reported.
The Wigwam was originally built in 1918 as a gathering place for the Ohio-based executives of Goodyear Tire & Rubber who discovered the West Valley of Phoenix as a prime location to grow cotton for rubber production. As the retreat grew in popularity, additional accommodations and amenities were added and in 1929, The Wigwam opened as a full-service resort.
The property sits in the heart of Litchfield Park, a town of about 5,500 in Maricopa County that was founded by Goodyear executive Paul Litchfield. The Wigwam now generates tax revenue for the city, the Republic reported.
Phoenix-based JDM Partners wants to transform about 50 acres of golf courses into the condominiums and single-family units, the Republic reported. In addition, JDM wants to add 500 more units, most of which would not be on the golf course.
Tom O’Malley, JDM’s Chief Operating Officer, told the Republic that the property needs to add additional hotel rooms by creating residences it can sell and also use for hotel rooms.
“We also are trying to address what is a cratering golf industry,” O’Malley said. “There are fewer and fewer people playing. Unfortunately, in Arizona, there are more and more golf courses.”
The days of the 5½-hour, 18-hole round of golf are rapidly diminishing, O’Malley noted, with more people now looking for a one- to two-hour experience instead.
The JDM proposal would entail these major changes to The Wigwam’s golf courses, the Republic reported:
• On the Gold Golf Course, 24.7 acres would change to 350 resort condominiums.
• On the Blue Patriot Golf Course, 21½ acres would give way to 125 single-family, medium-density residential units, and the course would be changed to a shorter, par-3 course.
• The proposal would affect only the southern edge of the Red Heritage Golf Course, where 31 acres that include a dirt field would become 200 apartments and 150 condos.
Terry Swicegood, a spokesman for Save Litchfield Park, said the proposals would dramatically increase the number of apartments, condos and houses in the city. Between The Wigwam proposals and requests for single-family units from other developers, the city would add 1,475 units, the Republic reported. That would increase the number of units in the city by more than 50 percent, according to 2010 census data.
“That would bring more noise, more congestion, more pollution, and change the character of our little urban oasis forever,” Swicegood said.
The group also believes the added residences won’t bring much long-term tax revenue to the city, the Republic reported (Litchfield Park currently has no property tax). The group is building support against the amendments, and Swicegood said its members will go door-to-door to make sure every resident understands the proposals.
“JDM has done just a fabulous job of upgrading The Wigwam,” Swicegood said. “We think they are good and honorable people, but in this case, we think they have really overreached and misunderstood the nature of our community and what is important to us.”
O’Malley said JDM is not trying to ram anything down residents’ throats, the Republic reported, adding that representatives have been meeting with residents and will continue to work with them and the city.
And the plan has some outside support, it was noted. Ed Gowan, Executive Director of the Arizona Golf Association, told the Republic that the Wigwam golf courses could use some “window dressing” and that the change to a par-3 course would make the Wigwam more attractive.
“From a tourism standpoint and appealing to the golf traveler, all that makes sense,” Gowan said. “That’s something kids and families and the local community could enjoy very much. Right now, they’re just three golf courses, so they [JDM] are adding a little pizazz to it, and I think it’s all very positive.”
White, the golfer from Canada, said he enjoys The Wigwam courses because of their beauty and serenity, which he believes might change if the proposal goes through.
Litchfield Park resident Russ Everts, 70, also golfs at The Wigwam and said he doesn’t like the proposed changes, the Republic reported. “Particularly the stuff they want to do to the Gold Course, I think it destroys a wonderful golf course,” Everts said.