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East County Wednesday, May 8, 2019 2 weeks ago

Recreation district bonds delayed

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Pending lawsuit delays judge's decision whether to approve issuance of bonds for purchase of University Park's recreational facilities.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

In a courtroom filled with more than 40 University Park Country Club residents, 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Edward Nicholas on May 6 was slated to approve the issuance of $24 million in bonds for the purchase of University Park recreational facilities and other related property by the

newly formed University Park Recreation District.

The decision was put on hold.

The University Park Recreation District, a governmental body created in August 2018, was formed to purchase and operate the University Park Country Club and community amenities. It has since negotiated a $16,975,000 deal to buy the 266-acre golf course and club, ponds within the community and an additional 100 acres of conservation area and other land from the community’s developers, the Neal and Pasold families.

University Park opened in 1991 as a joint partnership between developer Pat Neal, of Neal Communities, and the late Rolf Pasold, whose family is represented by Charles Varah. Pat Neal’s son, John, bought out his father’s stake in late 2007. Neal and the Pasold family retain ownership of University Park Country Club, which has semiprivate membership.

In February, more than 80% of property owners supported a referendum to move forward with the purchase. The total bond amount, $24 million, includes extra funding for maintenance and other improvements.

However, attorney Sheryl Edwards argued the judge could not make a decision on the bonds because her client, Richard Garrett, had an open lawsuit against the University Park Recreation District. The lawsuit alleges the recreation district was improperly formed and has no authority to issue bonds, among other grievances.

Edwards said Garrett’s case should go to trial.

During more than one hour of questioning of Hank Fishkind, a witness and manager for the University Park Recreation District, Nicholas twice told Edwards to modify her line of questioning because it felt too much like a “deposition.”

“I sit in a very limited capacity in regard to this bond validation,” Nicholas said. “The purpose of the court’s role is not the advisability of the recreation district. It’s to make sure the rules are followed and the purpose is legal.”

Nicholas, however, gave Edwards more time to pursue the lawsuit, and the parties will hold another hearing to determine whether Nicholas can make a decision on the bonds or if Edwards’ argument is valid. No date has been set.

Garrett said the recreation district did not follow its required process of including audited financial statements for the University Park Country Club when it mailed ballots to residents for the bond referendum.

Recreation district representatives said the processes have been correctly followed.

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