Magnolia Point residents challenge amenity fees imposed by Community Association

Article Courtesy of  CLAYTODAY

By Don Coble

Published February 28, 2024


GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Magnolia Point Golf and Country Club is quietly nestled behind guarded gates, surrounded by a matrix of moss-draped oaks and magnolia trees. The community is a sanctuary of solitude and affluence, where a semi-private golf course ambles throughout the 1,000-acre development.


But hidden in seemingly picture-perfect seclusion is chaos. The stylish, if not privileged, setting has been disrupted by a growing clash among residents concerning an annual Use Agreement payment of $450,815 to the golf and country club owners for the upkeep and accessibility to the pool and tennis courts.

Three Magnolia residents have hired a law firm to request mediation with the Association that could signal the end of payments to the club.

In its December newsletter, the Magnolia Residents Group said the original Use Agreement signed in 2015 was supposed to only last three years. The Group also contends the Community Association hasn’t voted on extending or modifying the agreement since. The original agreement was crafted between the club and the board of directors. The Group believes such an agreement violated Association rules because the deal needed approval by at least 75% of the 975 homeowners.

“Who can argue with letting the people speak?” said one of the three mediation signatories, Joe Chao. “Isn’t the real question, why are a group of about 20 citizens (so far) footing the legal bill to clarify what the Board should be eager to put to bed?”

Since its inception, the club has received more than $4 million in subsidies for access to the junior Olympic swimming pool and seven clay tennis courts.

Some oppose the payments because the club isn’t private, many residents don’t use the amenities and non-residents can pay a $10 fee to use the pool. Moreover, the payments don’t include access to the golf course, and the public has the same access to the 18-hole, 6,796-yard course, pub and restaurant.

Magnolia Point owners Trevor and Deneen Rothfels aren’t part of the legal wrangling between some Magnolia Residents Group and Community Association members. But Trevor Rothfels said his club is “indirectly connected to it.” One side is challenging how the agreement was created; the other side is concerned about the club’s future.

Trevor Rothfels was careful not to add fodder to the dispute.

“I don’t want to put anything out there that’s going to cause even more problems,” he said. “I can’t discuss much of this. I can tell you it’s not MPI (Magnolia Point, Inc.), Trevor or Deneen Rothfels. It’s between several homeowners and the HOA.”

Rothfels said he’s refurbished the pool and tennis courts since he bought the property from Thomas Schad for $1.83 million in 2012.

Mediation is scheduled for later this month, according to Magnolia resident and retired U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Bill Blackwell.

Both sides have tirelessly tried to gain support through its community website and social media.

Some fear that if payments to the club end, property values could decline if the course and its amenities are shuttered, like The Ravines Club and Lodge in 2006 and Orange Park Country Club in 2019.

One resident posted: “My concern is that we have an operating club that adds value and a closed club does not. If the real issue is that some folks believe the current club is a negative force on value, that’s what we should be discussing.”

Said resident Lou Pugliese: “The risk seems too great to ignore.”

Another said, “Our community, unlike other communities, we do not have the standard amenities other communities have. We do not have our own tennis courts, playgrounds, pool and clubhouse as other communities and HOA have. Thankfully, residents of the community at the time had the foresight, and they recognized the need. The right to use the items above makes our community whole and protects our home values. The club has done an admirable job supporting our community while improving the areas listed above at a far lower price per household than the surrounding communities charge for theirs.”

Opponents, including Blackwell and retired CPA Bob Robey, said there is no evidence to suggest property values would drop if the club closes. He poured through property records and determined values at Orange Park and The Ravines initially dropped but quickly rebounded since their clubs closed. He said the value of not paying extra fees and the fact that many residents don’t use the amenities led to increased home values in both communities. He created a graph that compared property values at Orange Park, The Ravines and Magnolia Point.

“For the most part, property values have been on an upward trend, and their prices have not been affected by the existence of any amenities in the community,” he said. “If anything, the removal of the expense of operating the amenities has added to the increase in sale prices of the homes in communities that have already terminated their amenity agreements.”

For now, the Rothfels are steering clear of the fray.

“It’s causing a lot of turmoil in the community,” Trevor said. “It’s a big mess. That’s absolutely for sure.”

Rothfels also won’t say what will happen if the Association doesn’t have to pay the annual rental assessment.

“I can’t comment on that,” he said.