Homeowner who opposes the process files lawsuit against the recreation district.
University Park Recreation District Chairman Bob Wood opened the district’s Feb. 8 meeting by telling those in attendance that a Feb. 7 referendum of property owners to purchase the University Park Country Club had passed with more than 80% of the vote.
“Today is a good day,” he said.
That means the recreation district board can move forward with a $16,975,000 deal to buy the 266-acre golf course and club, ponds within the community and an additional 100 acres of other land.
“I think 84% voter turnout and a vote of 80% support is overwhelmingly positive,” Wood said after the meeting. “It’s exactly what we hoped for.”
Supervisor Michael Smith attended the meeting via video conference from his vacation in Australia. It was 5 a.m. there.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome,” he said. “We still have a ways to go.”
Although the referendum passed, the recreation district board cannot yet move forward with the purchase. They are working to secure a $24 million bond to buy the land and cover other initial costs. The bond validation process could take up to four months.
The board had discussed using a line of credit to close on the property sooner, but that is no longer an option, at least for now, for the board faces a lawsuit.
University Park resident Richard Garrett filed a lawsuit Jan. 31 against the recreation district claiming its formation “was arbitrary, capricious, confiscatory, and/or violative of constitutional protections.”
Garrett said he knew about the plans to sell University Park’s amenities to residents when he began the process to purchase his home in summer 2017, but believes what was promised has not been fulfilled.
He said the homeowners association has not responded to his records requests and his lawsuit will include 500 pages of supporting documentation for the case.
He said other residents agree with him that the process lacked transparency and proper due diligence for purchase of the University Park Country Club property.
“In my opinion, there was a complete lack of concern for the owners of University Park,” Garrett said. “I come from a business background. This is the strangest situation I’ve ever seen.”
On Feb. 6, 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Edward Nichols denied a request for a temporary injunction to prevent the Feb. 7 referendum. The lawsuit itself and request for a permanent injunction is still pending with no specific timeline for moving forward, said Mark Barnebey, the district’s attorney.
District officials said they have been transparent and provided documentation. Wood warned residents the lawsuit may prevent the district from securing funds to pay its operational expenses and attorney’s fees. The district may have to consider options, like assessments, in the future to cover costs, he said.
“The district has no money to defend itself at this point,” Wood said.
Supervisors continued the meeting to Feb. 15 to extend the district’s purchase agreement for the property and to approve a loan to cover the district’s operating expenses.
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.