By Mark Waite
A meeting of creditors for the former Willow Creek golf course is scheduled at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 15 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Las Vegas.
If the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filed on Nov. 6 by Caldera P & G, the current owners, is converted to a chapter 7 liquidation of assets, the trustee will consider $4.038 million in claims. Opinions were varied on what could be done with the golf course, but the costs are a factor.
Jorei Enterprise has a $500,000 deed of trust to the 170-acre property. SCRS Investors LLC of Sacramento, Calif., has a $1.56 million promissory note. Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada lists five judgment liens totaling $1.97 million: the $516,508 awarded in a suit against Caldera P & G owner Jim Scott last March over the cleanup of the ponds, as well as judgment liens of $135,103, $100,000, $616,530 and $608,801.
In addition to those secured creditors, L & D Landscaping has an unsecured claim for $441,000, while Kevin Tucker of Cookeville, Tenn., has a $45,000 claim. An amended list of creditors filed Monday adds a $46,470 claim by the Lakeview Golf Association LLC to the list of creditors holding secured claims. The Nye County Treasurer’s Office has a $20,013 property tax lien on the property.
Caldera P & G lists the assignment of property to Sunray Petroleum Inc. within 120 days of the bankruptcy petition, a company which lists the same address as Caldera P & G and Ashland Capital LLC on West Sahara Avenue in Las Vegas.
The current value of the property listed in the bankruptcy is $3.5 million worth of real property and $3.69 million worth of personal property; Scott’s attorney said $3.5 million of the personal property is stock in Sunray Petroleum. The assets total $7.19 million and the liabilities $4.5 million.
So what could be done with it all?
Utilities Inc. submitted a proposal to acquire the golf course to settle a lawsuit with Scott. The utility company offered to remediate the ponds, which has been estimated to cost $400,000. But Scott submitted a counteroffer Utilities Inc. considered laughable.
Now the fate of the course could be settled by the trustee. UICN Regional Director Wendy Barnett said her company would be happy to sit down with anyone interested in resolving the problem, with an aim toward continuing to dispose of recycled effluent from the sewer plant located near the former second and 17th holes.
“We don’t have any use for that property as a means of discharging effluent. I wouldn’t say we’re disinterested because we do have an interest because of our damages and the operations of plant No. 3. We would be happy to sit down with the county, and the trustee, to see what resolutions could be reached that would be good for everyone, including the community,” Barnett said.
When a zone change was approved for a hotel and casino at the clubhouse requested by AMI Management in 2007, it included a stipulation that deed restrictions mandating the property remain a golf course be extended to 2043. But since that was later rescinded, Planning Director Steve Osborne said the 40-year deed restriction expires this year. That means the property could be carved up into residential units.
Frank Cox, a former director of golf and general manager of Willow Creek Golf Course, said anyone wanting to reopen the golf course would have to spend probably $4 million. The ponds will have to be remediated, the irrigation system repaired at a cost of about $1.5 million, new golf cart paths paved at a cost of probably $750,000 and trees planted. After that, new sod could be laid, the course could be grassed in May and the course would be ready the next winter, he said.
The irrigation systems normally last 20 to 25 years, Cox said, until the PVC pipes get hot, expand and break.
Developers could turn the clubhouse into a place with a restaurant hosting weddings and banquets or just have a bare bones place for a sandwich and a drink, he said. AMI Management got plans approved by Nye County to convert the 9.5-acre clubhouse site into a hotel, casino and restaurant, later rescinded, Cox said a casino could be the magic word to make a golf course profitable. Traffic could be routed only a short distance off Highway 372 down Red Butte Drive to avoid impacts to many of the nearby residences, he said.
The golf course would need some of the groups that were formerly booked into the Saddle West Hotel and Casino, Cox said. Then there’s competition from Mountain Falls Golf Course, he said.
“You need to have the local business and you need to promote the rounds out of Las Vegas. Between those three that’s how you get the revenue to make the golf courses profitable and everybody happy. It impacts our winter tourism, the people in the RV parks if they don’t have a place to play golf they go to Yuma or they go someplace else,” Cox said.
He sees a higher probability the golf course will be made into a park, with amenities like playground equipment and walking trails, using irrigation to water grass, but not a golf course.
“I think there’s a higher probability of that happening because the maintenance on that is just a small percentage of what it takes to run a golf course,” Cox said.
A golf course could require a maintenance budget of $500,000 to $1 million per year, he said.
Carol Cantino, a member of the Red Rock Audubon Society, suggested a bird refuge would be a way to provide habitat for the birds and a healthy habitat for humans for not too much money.
“Most of the golf course has just reverted back to desert but there are still areas that are still pretty, what they call the front nine between Pahrump Valley Boulevard and Red Butte. There are still a lot of trees that are living. We see a lot of hawks, a lot of birds,” Cantino said, who is married to Richard Cantino, a co-plaintiff in a suit against UICN.
Pahrump Valley has steadily dwindling habitat for birds, Cantino said. She sees woodland areas with native species like mesquite that would attract native birds and ponds for water birds.
“The only thing we would have to do is move the water and we got the water. I’m not looking at a whole golf course where it’s park land, where you have to get out there and mow, let a lot of the areas go back to natural, what it looks like if you were to go out into a mesquite forest,” Cantino said.
The former golf course has miles of potential bike paths, a rarity in Pahrump Valley, she said.
Hollis Harris, a longtime, prominent developer who lives on the former golf course, said he’s heard of different suggestions. They include getting a conservatory to buy it, getting Nye County to buy it and make park land or Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada could buy a portion and use 50 acres for rapid infiltration basins, injecting the recycled effluent into the ground. Harris formerly ran Desert Utilities which had five retention ponds on 20 acres.
“It goes back into the soil and it’s a good thing, it cleans itself. We put monitoring wells around the whole thing, the whole area, so we could monitor it and make sure the water was still good but there’s absolutely no odors from it,” Harris said.
There’s also been a suggestion Nye County could create an improvement district, where property owners that live along the former course could pay an assessment for improvements.
“If they wanted to have a special improvement district just for the people on the golf course I’d still go for that. We’ve been here many years. We love this golf course. It’s been a wonderful place to live. We like to watch the golfers in our backyard,” Harris said. “It doesn’t look nice at all in my opinion. I’ve tried to water part of the golf course that’s been in my backyard but it gets a little expensive. I’ve tried like the dickens to keep it green.”
Harris didn’t know how many neighbors would agree to join an improvement district. Residents around Lake View Executive Golf Course formed an association and are running the smaller course.
“First of all, even if we brought it back, it’s a losing proposition. It used to be 12 percent of the population played golf, I think it’s about 6 percent now and the economics are not there. We just couldn’t get the play,” Harris said.
He even thought about buying part of it himself and opening up a nine- hole golf course that would include walking trails.
Nye County Commissioner Butch Borasky said he wouldn’t have an appetite for the county to acquire the property. He berated Preferred Equities Corp. for leaving the county with the golf course as part of what he called “a series of events of greed.” He said the legal cases — in which owner Jim Scott formerly claimed a legal document on pending litigation called a lis pendens prevented him from selling the property — and now the bankruptcy, put everything on hold.
“It’s really a shame that the property owners around that golf course pay higher taxes than anyone else to have those lots and now they have nothing,” Borasky said.
“I heard rumors they offered it to Nye County but I’ve not seen anything in writing. But even if they did, what can you do with it other than some people who have a great idea about turning it into a wildlife refuge or something to keep it green and all of that requires a lot of money and unfortunately nobody wants to spend any of it right now,” Borasky said. “There’s no more money to be had out of that golf course, you can’t turn it into home lots, there’s no road system, no infrastructure. To me it needs to be a green space, that’s what it was intended to be.”
He hopes homeowners get together, form a homeowners’ association and get the situation under control, hopefully creating some green space.
“I don’t believe we should be in the business of funding, whatever you want to call it takes to do it. We don’t have money to throw around, especially taxpayers’ money. I doubt if there was any grant money out there. It would be a liability we would put on the people of Nye County. There’s nothing there, but a big chunk of dirt that’s half destroyed. To be a golf course you’d have to start all over again and we’re not in the business of running a golf course,” Borasky said.
Harris had his own dream.
“I hope somebody gets it that has a ton of money and will do something good with it. It’s not fun looking out your backyard at a bunch of tumbleweeds,” he said.