Posted in: Exclusive, Opinion

MY VIEW – THE KILLEARN DEBACLE

Posted on September 24, 2015

MY VIEW – THE KILLEARN DEBACLE

By Claire Duchemin

Reading the recent columns by J.T. Williams and Barton Tuck on the proposed closing of the north nine holes at Killearn, it strikes me that no one is speaking up for those of us member/owners who are most directly impacted by the changes. It’s high time the truth came out so that the citizens of this community and our elected officials understand the impact on those of us in the trenches, or as some homeowners have called it “ground zero.”

First, a few corrections and factual statements are in order. We are not a “well-heeled” minority. We are a group of hard-working middle class homeowners who put our life savings into our homes in the hopes that someday the equity we built up over twenty or thirty years would help see us through retirement. By using the bully pulpit to cast aspersions on those of us trying to protect our property investments, Barton Tuck and his merry band of blind followers have pitted neighbor against neighbor to squeeze out and intimidate those of us trying to stand up for our property rights. But we are not going quietly into the night just yet.

Contrary to the intimations in his recent column, Mr. Tuck’s proposed plan has yet to produce a single drawing or schematic of the proposed new clubhouse or other facilities being promised to members. In fact, to date, the only engineering plan or other drawing of any type produced to us by the owner, on the proposed future of the facilities, depicts a memory care assisted living facility footprint on what is now the primary parking lot for the golf course, pool, and tennis courts. Will Killearn end up like Mr. Tuck’s Club at Viniterra in New Kent, Virginia, that, three years after Mr. Tuck’s company took over, is still waiting for its clubhouse, has no date of proposed commencement of construction, is operating out of a double-wide mobile home, and has gone from a private club to a semi-public facility? The best predictor of future performance is past performance.

Conveniently, Mr. Tuck forgets to mention any where in his column that over the more than twenty years his company leased the country club to another entity, he and his partners reaped more than $11.0 million in rent payments and put none of that money into maintenance or upgrades to the facilities or infrastructure of Killearn. In addition, when the tenant last year bought its way out of the lease, Mr. Tuck’s company did not put that money back into the facilities for the members. Instead, the money was used to pay down the mortgage on the golf course, building equity for Mr. Tuck and his partners, not for the members or the homeowners along the golf course. Meanwhile, as recently as May of this year, Killearn was cited for more than twenty health code violations in its restaurant facilities, including multiple citations for failure to keep food at appropriate cooling temperatures. Perhaps Mr. Tuck should have spent some of the tenant’s lease buy-out money to improve the most basic facilities, refrigeration.

Second, Mr. Tuck’s plan is not the only viable alternative the homeowners and members have to secure the future of the development and our property values. The members have an absolute right to purchase the golf course and golf facilities and they too can extend the covenants on the property for another forty years, if they purchase it. The threat – that if the members do not go along with this plan the course will close in 2021- is interesting but empty, considering the provisions of the mortgage on the golf course which require permission of the mortgage holder before any changes in operations or facilities are permitted.

Between 1987 when Mr. Tuck’s group acquired Killearn and 1997, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of residences were built along the north course tee boxes, fairways, and greens, with the promise that those were “golf course” homes. Mr. Tuck and his partners stood by and idly watched as the citizens of this community bought and paid mortgages, insurance, and taxes on those properties and worked hard to maintain the family-oriented nature of the community, all while the owners hungrily banked more than $11.0 million in revenue. They did nothing as the centerpiece of our community, our golf course and country club, continued to deteriorate under their absentee ownership. Mr. Tuck now wants to effectively harvest our home equity to pay for the many renovations and improvements that a responsible member of the community would have been making all along. Personally, I and my colleagues prefer to purchase the golf facilities and be in charge of our own destiny, one that takes into consideration what is the right thing to do for all of the homeowners in Killearn, not just a carpetbagger developer from Greenville, South Carolina and a select few who want a ritzy new clubhouse and swimming pool.

26 Responses to MY VIEW – THE KILLEARN DEBACLE

  1. Laurie Davis Reply

    September 24, 2015 at 10:58 am

    I cannot help but be amazed that at this point, there are members of KCC that still don’t “see the light” and refuse to admit their original belief in Mr. Tuck’s empty promises was misplaced. Perhaps they are embarrassed and don’t want to lose face. It’s time for everyone in our community to band together and kick this bully OUT. Send him packing and take control of our neighborhood.

  2. John Reply

    September 24, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    I can’t believe all the personal attacks that this Claire Duchemin makes as she constantly resorts to namecalling (carpetbagger in this case). I’m a member of Killearn and as the restricted covenant specifically states, the membership has a right to decide what to do with the country club and that includes purchasing. If the membership has a plan to purchase, improve facilities, and improve the club as a whole, than we should definitely do so.

    However, this issue and all this woman’s lawsuits have been going on for a year now. She says her group wants to buy the club, but I have yet to see her disclose her plans for the club and I don’t know of any other member that has seen her plans. Mr. Tuck has had a couple of meetings where he discussed his vision for the club and future plans and all we get from this small group led by Ms. Duchemin is court filings.

    This is the membership of the club’s decision and not homeowners. The membership has paid its dues and supported the club for 50+ years, it is the membership that is provided the option.

    • Laurie Davis Reply

      September 24, 2015 at 12:31 pm

      It IS the membership’s decision, which is why all the homeowners are hoping the members will do what is best for the community as a whole and not be short sighted. The decisions which are to be made by the few will affect all of our property values.

  3. John H Reply

    September 24, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    How many north course homeowners are members? If you want support of the members, join

  4. Diane McCain Reply

    September 24, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    I, too, am a resident of Killearn, and at its beginning, my family was one of the first residents. I now own my own home there.

    Ms. Duchemin is a respected and intelligent person, in addition to being a well known legal scholar – as well as, a resident/home owner. I trust both her judgment and her keen insight and appreciate her views regarding this important, very important business issue.

    As homeowners we need to pay closer attention to all of the facts at hand. Much is at stake here!

  5. James Reply

    September 24, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    The golf club is private property. It is a business. And the business needs to reinvent intself to stay afloat. We have two options in Killearn: 1) ‘Preserve Killearn’ from 40 years ago and let the golf course go under. This would most definitely KILL home values. Or 2) Allow the golf course and club to reimvent itself to become a desirable destination which will boost the local economy, and most definitely RAISE HOME VALUES.

    It puzzles me how some, and in fact a small minority, of homeowners think they have a right to this private property and business. how about this- the golf course gets to have a say in what the surrounding homes look like, how they landscape their yards, and how many people live in those homes. Sounds fair, right?

  6. Donnie Watts Reply

    September 24, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    I believe & sincerely hope that the Leon County land use plan will ultimately determine what & what cannot be done on said properties.

  7. Claire Duchemin Reply

    September 24, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    FYI: The term “carpetbagger” means “opportunist.” Why does everyone assume that as members purchasing the club we cannot do a better job than what has been done in the last 28 years by the current owners? The members can build and own new facilities, much faster if we are not saddled with the albatross of the decrepit hotel, dining room facilities, pool, and tennis courts. Starting from scratch, with no DEBT on the property affords us all kinds of options the present owner does not have with his new $1.8 million mortgage.

  8. bob fulford Reply

    September 24, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    My stepfather, Lloyd Roberts, would often rejoin, when people said,”Life’s not fair.”, “Oh, but it is. It rains on everyone.”

    As a long-time neighborhood preservation activist who has seen, way too many times, a modest, even poor neighborhood get slammed, it is interesting to watch an apparently wealthy neighborhood get “rained” on.

    Also, should you not understand what’s going on here listen to all sides.

    And pay close attention to Claire.

  9. Richard Yood Reply

    September 24, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    Not being a golfer, and living no where close to the golf course, I don’t have a dog in this fight. However, I find Ms. Duchemin’s “views” to be both snarky and mostly opinion and whining. I really don’t care what happens to the golf course, but as stated it’s a business, and it should be approached by both the club and the members in a business manner. Lawsuits are many times pointless in cases like this, used as a delaying tactic, until a counter offer can be delivered. So where is the counter offer? Also, I sure would like to believe Ms. Duchemin is doing this legal work Pro Bono…

    • Theresa Reply

      September 26, 2015 at 10:34 pm

      Interesting way to cast aspersions on Ms. Duchemin’s character….. When your property values plummet (and ask any realtor about how the homes away from the course always plummet farther) – I think you will find leaving your dog in the cage was the wrong plan.

    • Claire Duchemin Reply

      October 13, 2015 at 5:52 pm

      Yes, pro bono and currently $125,000 in the hole trying to protect mine and my neighbors’ property values.

  10. Paul Reply

    September 24, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    I resent Ms Ducheman calling me one of a “band of blind followers”. Who is she to judge my intelligence and my motives to make my own decision what’s best? Do we want Killearn to remain in our community, or do we want Ms Ducheman and HER band of blind followers to buy the courses? That’s all she will get, the course and pro shop. No dining room, no swimming pool, no tennis courts. They are not included in the covenants. What has she proposed? NOTHING! To my knowledge, she has not proposed one thing that will “preserve Killearn”. It is my opinion the it is SHE that is blocking the path to economic independence of our club. She is the one holding up progress. She is the one that has brought the lawsuit that has held up the redevelopment plan. The members have voted, and by a wide margin, have supported the plan of the owner. Step aside, Ms Ducheman, and let us move forward.

  11. Preston Scott

    Preston Scott Reply

    September 24, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    As a former member of Killearn I saw long ago what was happening with the club. Like others writing, I have no dog in the fight either, but there are facts about the owner that are irrefutable. He has a track record of making promises at his other entities and not following through. Visit the website at The Club at Viniterra. Not one picture of the clubhouse. That is beyond bizarre. A check back on the Tallahassee Reports archives shows a pattern that does not reflect well on Mr. Tuck’s handling of this matter. If I owned a house on the “Narrows” I would be livid – and being a member is irrelevant to the issue – owning a home on a golf course carries an expectation of attached value. I suspect that a check of golf course homes and values would confirm the obvious. The home owners will be damaged. Members, you have the tee. By the course. If you cannot, then this will get real ugly.

    • Hope Reply

      September 25, 2015 at 12:55 pm

      Great insight on this matter!

  12. Chick Hammond Reply

    September 24, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    Since it was constructed, “The Narrows” has been a 9 hole course that few of the members have chosen to play. In fact, many of our golfing groups refuse to play there, or will as a last resort. So…let it go…Allow Mr. Tuck to update our golf course and build a new clubhouse we can all be proud of. Now and for everyone’s future. A majority of the members have already spoken for his plan.

  13. Andy Snuts Reply

    September 24, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    I honestly enjoyed the narrows, except a couple of the tee boxes. Quiet, peaceful, serene!! (great spell check feature. I was having a hard time spelling serene)

  14. Dave Reply

    September 25, 2015 at 8:01 am

    Wow! Some of these comments sound like our two political parties bickering back and forth. Appears that both “sides” are intransigent and dug in. As is normally the case with the political parties, blind obedience to the party line sometimes leads to poor decisions that are not in the best interests of the constituents.

  15. Old Timer Reply

    September 25, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    I grew up in Killearn in the late 60’s and 70’s ( my first job was at the “Sing” store at the end of Killearny Way) and although I don’t live in the subdivision now, Killearn still is a special place to me.

    It seems to me that Mr. Williams (and Mr. Cartee) made very clear provision for this very situation, and it would seem to be a simple matter of the members deciding on whether or not to take advantage of the terms of the covenants which allow them to purchase the golf course.

    I don’t know for sure, but it would seem reasonable that institutional financing would be obtainable, assuming that the “numbers” work.

    Working through the forecasts and projections in order to see if the numbers work, the members would seem to be able to see clearly whether or not current owner is being forthright in his representations to the members as to his inability to make the numbers work without taking the actions he has proposed.

    It would be interesting to know what the numbers say.

  16. Theresa Reply

    September 26, 2015 at 10:47 pm

    To get the best perspective on this discussion, you must ask the question cui bono? Who benefits? Frankly, Mr. Tuck is a businessman and developer with his own best interest in mind. His objective is to make more money off of his investment. Period. To ascribe to Mr Tuck more altruistic motives is to be beguiled by visions of a future that he will not deliver based on his past record.

    Ms. Duchemin is protecting the property values of all the homeowners. She has the “skin in the game.” Mr. Tuck does not have the same commitment to the community. Ms. Duchemin is fighting to maintain a community. If Mr. Tuck’s group has netted +/- 11 million over the years the club is clearly sustainable as a community owned asset. No one ever washes a rental car – the same can be said for a country club.

  17. Dick Franklin Reply

    September 27, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    Claire every owner of property in Killearn should be involved and concerned about the proposed changes as we all are affected. You make some great observations about the character and motives of Mr. Tuck. Every homeowner knows you have to maintain your home to keep it up; Mr. Tuck must think golf courses are immune from such repairs. Thank you and everyone involved in challenging the self serving interest of this man.

  18. Resident Observer Reply

    September 29, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    It is odd, Claire, that you failed to mention that you, as a lawyer (not just as a homeowner) filed a lawsuit. Who hired you? Should we, as Killearn residents, presume that your work is pro bono? Should we, as homeowners have to pay you? If any group of homeowners did hire you, what are the compensation arrangements? If you will want to be paid by all homeowners, how about disclosing the terms of the representation? What are the benchmarks for success and entitlement to a fee? What is your hourly rate? What is your expertise? What value to you bring? I don’t know Mr. Tuck, but casting aspersions at him (“and his merry band of blind followers”) certainly speaks to the level of discourse of which you are capable. Perhaps you SHOULD consider this as your mandatory pro bono. Or better yet, moot court.

    • Claire Duchemin Reply

      October 13, 2015 at 6:01 pm

      As previously replied to another inquiry on this matter, I have not charged anyone a fee for my services and am working pro bono to the tune that I am about $125,000 in the hole already. I am more concerned about doing the right thing and helping my friends and neighbors than money. If it was all about money, I would have never been involved. That’s not the touchstone for my life, thankfully.

  19. Don Rexroad Reply

    October 4, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    My wife andI have lived in Killearn for 42 yrs. During the last 20 or so yrs we have watched the club facilities deteriorate to their present condition which is almost a safety hazard and certainly not a pleasant picture to show guests who are visiting. I don’t know who is responsible… probably there is equel guilt on the past owners and to those they leased the club to. I know that if I owned property that badly needed to be repaired or renovated, and did not have the money to do what was obviously necessary, I would sell the least used part of my assets to gain the money. It appears to me that is what the present owner is attempting to do. I understand the position of the homeowners adjscent to the Narrrows. But in my 85 yrs I have seen many cases where WHAT YOU SEE IS NOT WHAT YOU GET. y wife and I are a good example. We lived on the golf course for 18 yrs and had to move for health reasons. We loved Killearn and were able to buy a house on beautiful Lake Kanturk but have discovered that half of the time there is no water in our beautiful lake!!! My wife has to mow the lake grass and weeds to keep them from coming into our yard It seems as though some must suffer for the good of the whole…

    • Claire Duchemin Reply

      October 13, 2015 at 6:06 pm

      Don, I am very sorry that your lake dried up. But what do you think is going to happen to all of the lakes, the roads, the parks, and our neighborhood when 450 apartments are built on holes 7, 8, and 9 of the north course?

  20. N.S. Atkinson Reply

    November 21, 2015 at 11:41 am

    I fully support Mrs. Claire Duchemin regarding her good efforts to protect the homeowners of Killearn Estates and their vested rights.

    All of us bought into Killearn ownership in good faith that our rights were not going to be violated by the personal interest of any one individual.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *