ARLINGTON – Gleneagle Golf Course will reopen this summer for tournaments and banquets while developer George Brown continues to work on plans to shrink the 18-hole course to squeeze in more homes.
Brown closed the golf course and clubhouse Jan. 1, surprising many of the more than 1,000 homeowners in Gleneagle, Arlington’s largest neighborhood. At the time, he said revenues from selling new lots would be needed to offset losses from the struggling golf course.
“Our plans are to reopen the golf course and clubhouse May 1 for the summer only, for tournaments and banquets only, in order to serve the annual returning tournament customers of many years,” Brown said via e-mail.
Brown left open the possibility of opening the course to the public as well, but added that was “unlikely.” He did not say when the course would close at the end of summer.
The summer tournaments and banquets should help generate cash flow to keep the course in good condition while a new design is drawn up and submitted to the city, Brown said.
“We expect to file a plat for the first set of new lots within the next 45 to 60 days,” he said.
Brown did not elaborate on how many extra lots he would ask for, but in the past he has said he had the right to develop as many as 1,400 lots in Gleneagle. The development has about 1,000 lots now.
Gleneagle’s homeowner’s association objects to the plans, saying Brown has a contract with Arlington that prohibits new development. The homeowner’s association sued Brown and his partners for failing to perform on that contract, as well as the neighborhood’s covenants, by not keeping the golf course open.
That lawsuit is pending.
The city’s position is that any changes to the contract to allow new development would have to be approved by the Arlington City Council, said city administrator Allen Johnson.
City officials have met with Brown to discuss his plans, but have yet to receive anything official, Johnson said.
In the meantime, some at a recent city retreat suggested that the city should offer to mediate the dispute, Johnson said. They also discussed options such as the city buying or managing the golf course, although doubts were raised about how to finance such a deal.
Later, at a regular City Council meeting, several residents opposed the city getting involved, at least for now.
Eyleen Shouman, whose husband, Jack, is on the homeowner’s board, emphasized in her comments that she was not speaking for the board.
“We are already in litigation with Brown,” Shouman said. “That litigation is closer to a hearing. … It’s possible at some point (the city) will have to step up and say something, but they don’t have to at this point.”
Johnson said the brainstorming ideas at the retreat have not been followed up, in part because of feedback from residents such as Shouman. Still, the city would like to avoid being caught in the middle of a lawsuit, he said.
“We’re still interested in trying to help or facilitate in any way we can,” Johnson said.
For Shouman, the short-term solution is simple. Brown should open the golf course as the contract calls for so homes there do not lose value. The city can help by holding Brown to the terms of the contract and not allowing him to develop new lots, Shouman said.
“Once the city allows (Brown) to start any development here, they will have set a precedent,” Shouman said. “So this is the time to stand our ground.”
A long-term fix is not as simple. She said she believes the community would be best served if the homeowner’s association were to buy the golf course, to avoid outside owners controlling something so vital to home values. Brown has tried to sell the golf course in recent months.
“I might think it’s the most reasonable long-term solution, but that doesn’t mean the community feels it is,” Shouman said, adding that two-thirds of homeowners would have to approve such a purchase. “I have zero idea whether anybody here wants to buy it.”
Reporter Scott Morris: 425-339-3292 or smorris@ heraldnet.com.