Article Courtesy of The Orlando
By Stephen Hudak
Published January 14, 2017
The owner of the Windermere Country Club has sued to overturn
a county decision that thwarted his plan to turn the shuttered golf course into
a 95-home neighborhood.
The challenge, filed last month in circuit court, asks for an order that would
nullify a unanimous decision of the Orange County Commission.
The board decided in October that it would not give golf course owner Bryan
DeCunha the right to develop the 155-acre golf course.
DeCunha's lawyers say his request complied with all county rules.
While hopeful the commission's decision will stand, some neighbors of the
Windermere Country Club worry about DeCunha's legal action.
"You have to be somewhat concerned," said George Huxhold, who bought his home
along the former 12th hole fairway about five years ago.
Attorney Kurt Ardaman, who represented the Windermere Club Homeowners
Association during the October hearing, had argued that turning the links into
more houses would cut property values by 20 percent.
The HOA will join the county in the court fight, Huxhold said.
DeCunha, who operated a golf course in Ontario, bought the country club in 2011
for $2.1 million, but closed it last April, citing mounting losses.
His plan to build homes was immediately met with opposition from neighbors,
including some of whom had been members of the club. The county received the
development rights to the golf course in 1986 as part of an agreement for the
original 500-acre residential project.
While unusual, such arrangements were not unheard of.
Neighbors have complained that since the golf course closed, the property
appears "shaggy" at times and it has been surrounded by a chain-link fence and
"What we usually worry about when golf courses go dark is that you can have a
jungle in your backyard. That's not happening out there right now," said Bob
Spivey, manager of Orange County's code enforcement division.
"Shaggy is not a code violation."