Ahwatukee homeowners fight development of golf course - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

Ahwatukee homeowners fight development of golf course

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Ben Holt has lived on the edge of the golf course and said he has seen a steady deterioration of the course conditions over the years. (Source: CBS 5 News) Ben Holt has lived on the edge of the golf course and said he has seen a steady deterioration of the course conditions over the years. (Source: CBS 5 News)
A California developer says he has continuously lost money since he bought The Lake at Ahwatukee golf course in 2006. (Source: CBS 5 News) A California developer says he has continuously lost money since he bought The Lake at Ahwatukee golf course in 2006. (Source: CBS 5 News)
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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

The future of a once-popular Ahwatukee golf course is uncertain.

Its owner wants to shut it down and build apartments. However, that plan is not sitting well with hundreds of people whose homes line the course.

"When I first started playing this course (The Lakes at Ahwatukee), all of this area was completely green grass, healthy trees," Ben Holt said. "It was a very nice, pristine golf course."

Holt has been playing at The Lakes golf course for 13 years. He's lived on the edge of it for the past five.

"Over the last five years, we've seen a steady deterioration - to the point now, it's an embarrassment for golfers to pay a green fee and play here," Holt said.

Wilson Gee, a land developer and golf course owner based in Los Angeles, told CBS 5 News he bought the property in 2006.

He said he's been losing money on The Lakes Golf Course for the past four years and he can't justify keeping it open.

Gee plans to close the 18-hole executive course, which is surrounded by homes and divided by 44th Street, on June 1.

He wants to build apartments on the east side and possibly maintain a nine-hole golf course to the west.

"He has every right to close it," Holt said. "But, our CC&Rs say he has no right to build apartments. This is a golf course in perpetuity."

Holt formed the nonprofit Save the Lakes in 2008 when Gee first proposed closing the course.

He said nearly 200 members have raised enough money to legally uphold the covenants, conditions and restrictions pertaining to their development and the golf course.

"I'd rather have a weed field than apartments here," said Save the Lakes member Dave Harp.

Harp said he doesn't want to see Gee place the liability of a bad investment on homeowners.

"What his strategy I think is - he can see big money in a hurry if he can sell off that property to a developer or develop it himself," he said.

Instead, Save the Lakes members want Gee to invest in what he already owns.

"I'm convinced that if he upgraded the course and maintained it properly, golfers would come here," Holt said. "They have in the past."

Gee tells CBS 5 News, he doesn't know what will come of the golf course.

But, once it closes, he said he will maintain the grounds to city standards.

And, he said he's hopeful he and the residents will reach a compromise.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.