At 10 a.m. city officials plan to arrive at the public golf course and ask a representative of owner Alice Daniels and Seminole Club Inc. to turn over the keys to the course and vacate the premises.
“Our charge is that they have violated the terms and conditions of the lease agreement and as a result of that we want to take possession of the property as we have the right to,” said City Manager Sherman Yehl Friday afternoon. “We are going to ask them to turn over possession of the golf course.”
He said the city wants to prevent further deterioration of the golf course, which sits on property owned by Sanford.
“The city considers the Mayfair golf course a real asset and we want to see it maintain and operated in a manner that makes and keeps it a first-class facility,” Yehl said.
Alice Daniel’s husband, Jack, entered into a 67-year lease agreement with the city on March 11, 1981. The lease expires in 2048. The Daniels family has operated the course near H.E. Thomas and Country Club Road for the past 26 years.
The current dispute between the city and the Daniels family started about a year ago, but the two sides have tangled in the past. When Jack Daniels died, some family members blamed his death on stress related to a dispute with the city.
According to Yehl, the city claims numerous violations in terms of maintenance and record keeping — including audits and financial reports. The city has also received numerous complaints from golfers unhappy about the way the course has been maintained in recent years.
The most common complaints pertain to the dry conditions on the fairways and greens and poor maintenance of the restrooms and other facilities. Last year a shooting occurred at the country club during a graduation party.
Alice Daniel’s son Curtis is an employee at the course.
“We’re not turning over the keys or the alarm codes,” he said Friday. “If they file suit we’ll file a counter suit and we’ll all waste a lot of money on lawyers instead of putting money into the club. Alice has plenty of fight left in her and so do her attorneys.”
Curtis Daniels contends that the city failed to live up their agreement in terms of supplying the water needed to keep the course green. He said Seminole Club recently spent $14,000 on a new irrigation pump that sits on the west side of the first fairway.
In his interpretation of the lease, Daniels said the city should have paid for a new pump. A city staff member refuted that claim and said the pump was the course operator’s responsibility.
Daniels also mentioned a city-owned pump that supplies water from a nearby retention pond. According to Daniels, that pump was out of service for quite some time before eventually being repaired by the city. Unlike the pump on fairway No. 1, the city-owned pump Curtis referred to does not sit on golf course property.
Fair price for Mayfair?
Yehl said the city is prepared to operate the golf course beginning Monday or Tuesday, but that scenario seems unlikely. Monday’s actions are expected to be more legal wrangling than high drama.
Attorney Matt Gibbons is representing Seminole Club Inc.
“We’ve coordinated what’s going to happen on Monday, it’s more a legal formality,” he said Friday afternoon. “There should be no drama or excitement. We’ll say ‘Thank you, but respectfully no’ and it will be back to the lawyers. We’re still very hopeful that a resolution is possible.”
Gibbons expects the course will stay open and play to continue without interruption.
“The city wants people to be able to play golf there and so do we. I think that’s a priority for everybody,” he said.
The city recently issued a letter to Seminole Club as a notice of lease termination. Officials consider the lease terminated on Aug. 20 and have asked that the keys be turned over at that time.
“The date is upon us, but Seminole Club is not planning on giving them the keys or vacating,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons said the city could possibly file an eviction lawsuit as part of their efforts to gain back control of the golf course, but Gibbons and Yehl both expressed hope that the situation could be resolved through arbitration — with the arbitrator determining a price that pleases both parties and results in the city taking reacquiring the lease.
“We’re working toward resolving this and I think there’s a very good chance of us doing that,” Gibbons said.
According to Yehl, the city offered Seminole Club $750,000 to reacquire the lease — a far cry from the $4 million asking price.
“We’re quite a ways a part, but arbitration may solve that,” Yehl said. “What are the remaining years of the lease are worth to them?”
If the city takes control of the course it will operate the golf course until new course managers can be found. If a price cannot be agreed on in arbitration, the city could place the course into receivership and take control of the course until the lawsuit can be settled.
Attorney fees and other costs associated with mediation will be incurred in addition to the cost of acquiring the lease. This comes at a time when tax revenues are a growing concern. City leaders are already planning to build a public safety complex and searching for funds to renovate Fort Mellon Park. Acquiring the golf course would be another costly item on the city’s wish list.
Another consideration is that Seminole Club could find another group to take over the lease, Gibbons said.
Seminole Club Inc. has received offers from other parties interested in taking over the golf course, but none of those offers have met the owner’s expectations. A new leaseholder would have to be approved by the city before the lease can be transferred.