My View: Killearn Country Club

My View: Killearn Country Club

By: Tico Gimbel, Mike Illers and Gino Betta (Three member panel)

Killearn Country Club (KCC) has been a thriving component of community life in Tallahassee for nearly fifty years. With the current special restrictive covenants set to expire in 2021, the club is now at a crossroads.

Mr. Barton Tuck, the owner of KCC, notified the membership of his intent to close a portion of the club’s 27-hole golf course (the nine holes referred to as the North Course). This notification triggered the Members’ right to purchase portions of KCC property. Once this right was triggered and consistent with the special restrictive covenants, we were appointed and approved by the Membership as “The Panel” to represent the members as it relates to this option to purchase. The Covenant is entitled “Members’ Right to Purchase”, not Member’s Right to Purchase (note the placement of the apostrophe).

Initially, the option to purchase was set to expire on October 15, but we worked with the owner to secure an extension to November 2.

This extension provided us with additional time to gather information as to how the Membership wished to move forward. Mr. Tuck provided some commitments to the Membership during this time. We also sought input from those members interested in exercising the option to purchase and tried to ascertain their vision and plans for an ownership and management structure.

The owner’s plan would create a permanent conservation area with a maintenance escrow account on most of holes 1-6 of the North Course and sell holes 7-9, including the driving range, in order to raise capital to build new facilities. As part of this plan, the owner would invest the proceeds from the sale of the property back into the club and extend the restrictive covenants on the remaining 18 holes for 40 years.

Everyone should understand that if the current restricted covenant expires as scheduled in 2021, it will leave the original Championship 18-hole course along with the North 9, all of which is currently zoned as single family residential property, without any restrictive covenant protecting it as a golf course.

We reached out many times to those members seeking to purchase the club for their plan for KCC, but we were rebuffed. We offered to distribute their plan to the entire Membership and again, we were rebuffed. Other members presented the group with a series of questions inquiring about their plan and they were also rebuffed. Prior to the appointment of the Panel, they discussed purchasing KCC and selling the property the next day to an investment or golf management company.

The right to purchase specifically excludes some very critical pieces of the property (tennis courts, locker rooms, pool area, dining facilities, etc.). Financially, can the club be operated without a pool, tennis courts and dining facilities? Many members do not golf. Without these areas of the club, how many members will be lost? Additionally, do we want a management company operating our club? KCC’s prior experience with a management company greatly contributed to the current need to upgrade our facilities.

The reality is, this small minority group’s (6% of the Membership want to purchase) interest is to preserve the status quo at the expense of new facilities and upgrades. They would rather the owner go bankrupt and close the entire course in 2021 (which is a short six years away). Perhaps if the non-members filing lawsuits and delaying the upgrades had joined KCC, the increased revenue over the years would have supported keeping all 27 holes open.

Killearn Country Club has a great history. Over the last fifty years, the club has hosted many professional golf tournaments, weddings, and other special events that have contributed to Tallahassee’s economy. The residents of Killearn, and Tallahassee as a whole, should want a strong and thriving club and support the membership as we move forward. This is an important decision and one we hope our fellow neighbors, elected officials, and community will support.

Tico Gimbel, Mike Illers and Gino Betta are long-time members of Killearn Country Club. They were appointed by an overwhelming majority of KCC members (195 of 197 that issued an appointment) to serve as “The Panel” responsible for determining whether the Membership wanted to exercise its’ right to purchase the golf course from the owner. Only 6% of the Membership voted to exercise the right to purchase.

33 Responses to "My View: Killearn Country Club"

  1. The authors of this article say the club has been thriving for 50 years. Have they been there over the past several years? The wood structures have been rotted, the fitness room has broken equipment and water damage, and the club is being sued for unpaid bills concerning the golf carts. Check the Health Department records and see how many times the 19th Hole has been determined to have violations at a rate much higher than most restaurants. That, for a place that hardly serves any meals!

    Where is Lori and why did she depart? She was a Tuck supporter yet she is gone too!

    I have seen no improvement since they wrote this article in 2015. If The Panel is not embarrassed, they should be!

  2. I just hope that the Killearn HOA doesn’t try to purchase the Country Club. They will raise HO dues and then charge for membership. I’ve been a member twice in the last 15 years. The straw that broke the camel’s back was watching an elderly golfer take off his golf shoes and dip his sweaty stinking feet into the pool in mid-summer while kids were swimming. Don’t fall for it. Only a very few want the club to survive.

  3. So here we are, the narrows are closed. Now what? Where are the improvements? Is KCC bound to the HOA restrictions on grass height? It looks terrible there. Where is the reinvestment in the club?

    How about a follow-up?

  4. I can’t believe that a person with any intelligencea at all would send a comment like sent by the Sender of Darton Tuck in year 1981. How childlike can we act?

  5. Here’s business plan / hope nobody steals it.

    1. I’m going to buy a 27 hole golf course in Florida.
    2. I’m going to allow folks to put in roads, and build houses in reliance on the existence of this golf course, while I own it. I’ll let them pay a premium for “golf course” lots. Hee he.
    3. I’m then going to lease out operations to a golf management company for $50,000 or $60,000 per month.
    4. The lease is going to be triple-net, meaning that I will have to be responsible for maintaining the premises. Except, instead of maintaining the premises, I’m going to just collect the $50,000-$60,000 per month and put it right into my pocket. I’ll allow the facility to become a “disgrace” as I will later describe it to members as part of my grand plan.
    5. While I’m collecting this lease payment every single month, I’m going to mortgage the place up as high as I can and use that money for my own personal benefit, even though the lease payment is more than enough to pay off the mortgage I originally took out to buy the place.
    6. When the lease ends, I’m not going to be able to pay that huge mortgage debt I put on the property. So, I’m going to make up a story and sell it to the membership. No damn way my funds will go to the premises!
    7. I’m going to come to town and tell the membership that the place is unprofitable, and cannot be maintained as a 27 hole course because of “the state of the golf industry.” Nobody will ask how it was able to make a profit AND pay me $60,000 (over $12,000,000) while the 27 hole operations were leased out.
    8. I’ll scare the heck out of them by saying the place is wide enough to put roads down every fairway if I don’t get my way. Meanwhile I’ll surreptitiously get them to vote away restrictive covenants that could foil my plan.
    9. Everyone will believe me and be scared, because I’ll present it as the only option and make it appear I’m a savior. Nobody will care that I didn’t maintain the place or put any money into maintenance. Nobody will see that this is all a ruse to pay off my debt so I can keep my $12,000,000 and all the money I borrowed secured by the place. So funny, nobody will even be able to find out what I did that resulted in there being a mortgage in the first place.
    10. I’ll proceed regardless of the existence of any injunction!! No court can stop me.
    11. I’ll silence everyone who looks into the “facts” by sending out frivolous SLAPP lawsuit demand letters to North Course homeowners / members. I’ll straight up make up things and put these allegations into demand letters to silence those that want to ask questions, exercise property rights, or participate in speech on matters of public concern. I despise folks who claim they have rights, particularly when they interfere with my scheme.
    12. I’m then going to sell land for high-density multifamily on the former golf course, and the worlds largest Alzheimers’ care facility. It will be one crazy community when I’m done with it. Those suckers who believed they were buying golf course lots crack me up! I’ll tell everyone that the money from these things will go to a clubhouse, but conveniently my mortgage will require that the proceeds first go to pay off the debt I had to guarantee. Maybe some will be left after that, maybe not? I don’t really care. Nevertheless, I’ll induce action with promises of grandeur.
    13. Maybe I’ll sprinkle some of the rest (if any) around to the club, maybe not. Maybe I’ll head back to where I came from after I’m relieved of the gurantor liability. Who the hell knows or cares? Certainly not the 3 member panel.

    How does anyone believe this rubbish? Start asking questions and getting answers folks. Own all 27 debt free with new amenities and a qualified golf course operator with extended covenants on all 27, or follow this plan which will, if successful (doubtful), leave the club saddled with loads of debt and no improvements???

  6. Former Member – You seem to be more fixated on my not being here year around then what this issue is all about: It IS about the survival of Killearn Country Club. If you know so much, tell me why in the last 2 years we returned from our NJ home esrly? In fact, we were gone just two months this year. So, I HAVE been here. Where are you, FORMER member?

    As for the rest of you, you may be happy to hear that this will be my last post on this Tallahassee Reports article. Its reached a point that it’s ridiculous to continue to discuss this among ourselves. Those for and those agsinst. Claire has decided a lawsuit will resolve this. So it really doesn’t matter anymore. As soon as the judge rules, we will all deal with whatever hand we’re delt. As for me, I’ve made my decision whether any of you like it or not. As a member, I do, indeed have a vote, and I excersised my right. It’s too bad that Members that did not vote and did not excersize their right to do so will also have to live with that decision. They are probably OK with wgichever way it goes. Numerous emsils and letters ecouraged all to vote. I’m teeing off tomorrow at 9:40, and intend to enjoy another round of golf at our club. See you at the course!

  7. Paul… the fur has been flying for the past 12 months but you haven’t been here to notice…Tuck cant show $1.80 of improvements since he got $1.8 Million from the Cairo bank…

  8. Claire,
    I live on one of the lakes on Shannon Lakes, just for the record I can remember some years back when they actually had to use a bush hog to cut down the grown in the big lake, as it was dry for several months. We have several condominiums in the neighborhood already, I am sure with the price point that this property will command it will attract an upscale home owner and who knows they may even want to join a private club with new amenities and a beautiful 18 hole layout!

  9. Since Paul lives in New Jersey for 6 months of the year….he seems rather vocal without knowing all the facts…I suppose he will support Tuck in 2021 when he wants to close all 27 holes!! Can anyone tell me what Tuck did with $1.8 million from the bank in Cairo….I thought that the economy was so bad that he could not get a loan and had to close the North for that reason!!

    1. Dear Former Member – Your “handle” makes me wonder why you care? What has my living in NJ for 6 months have anything to do with it? Does that mean I have to be “half-vocal”? OK, I can do that! Note I have shortened this response by one-half!

  10. What is perplexing to me is that the three members of the alleged “panel” have chosen to use this forum to spread matters that are utterly and completely inaccurate. First: the notion that they were rebuffed by the members who wish to exercise their purchase right is incorrect. They, like all members whose contact information was available, were notified of a meeting at which time the purchasing group would present their plan to proceed. The meeting was held on October 1, off-site because Killearn would not allow the purchasing members to hold a meeting on-site. Likewise, Killearn refused to send out the notice of the meeting to its email list or allow the purchasing group to use the email information. At most, a few announcements were posted around the club. Luckily, the outdated and old email information that was available notified many of the members of the meeting. Very few members chose to attend to find out the plan the purchasing members intend to implement. Notably, two of the three members of the “panel” were present,(the one who was absent was well represented though because his wife was there). They were invited to ask questions and were offered a copy of the purchasers’ power point presentation of their plan, before the “panel” members departed. They declined to take a copy. Even after the meeting, the purchasing members offered to repeat the whole presentation to the entire club membership, but the club management again refused to allow this to go forward. The panel members were not rebuffed. Moreover, the purchasing members did agree to provide the same level of detail demanded of them, just as soon as the owner provided his details, something sorely lacking from every written document the owner has provided to date. For example, exactly where are the plans for the owner’s new clubhouse? The purchasing members showed their architectural renderings, but the owner has not chosen to share anything.

    Inaccuracy #2: An election was held to appoint the three “panel” members. Pre-printed ballots, with the names of the above three panel members typed in, were distributed at the same meeting at which the owner’s representatives stood up and said, “this is not a meeting to vote.” No meeting for a vote was ever noticed to all club members. The “panel” decided to hold the vote by pre-printed distributed ballots to select members.

    Inaccuracy #3: The company managing the course over the last few years is responsible for its deterioration. The owner is responsible for taking out more than $11.0 million from our community and not returning one dime to the infrastructure or other improvements to the club. Regardless of who bears responsibility for property maintenance under a lease, a reasonable owner of a million dollar facility does not sit idly by for twenty years and watch his property deteriorate. Ultimate responsibility for the condition of the property rests with the owner, not the tenant.

    Inaccuracy #4: The majority, by selecting three representatives committed to defeating the member purchase rights of other members, has the right to override the individual property rights of the members who wish to exercise their purchase rights. Wrong, as testified to by the creator of the covenant, J. T. Williams – sworn deposition testimony taken Monday, November 2, 2015. In drafting the covenant, he intended for any one or more members to be able to exercise their purchaser rights even if a majority elected not to exercise their rights.

    If you want to see what our neighborhood is going to look like if the owner gets his way and puts in multifamily housing, just take a look at the dried up lakes on Shannon Lakes Road (prior to the rain in the last 24 hours). I have lived in Killearn and the Killearn area for more than thirty years and the lakes have never dried up like this before. What was once a vibrant and beautiful neighborhood is destroyed by over population and rampant development. More of the same will only exacerbate the problems.

    By the way, the purchasing group also intends to extend the covenant for the golf course… on all three nines, not just on part of the golf course. We want to see everyone’s property values escalate rather than see the entire neighborhood decline.

    1. Claire,

      your lawsuit has just delayed the inevitable. The majority of the membership has spoken. You have alienated the remaining members that support Barton Tuck. I certainly understand why you would not be happy about the North closing, but sometimes changes must be made. This is one of them. I have other friends that also live on the North 9 and they are not angry about it, in fact they embrace it. You have taken your anger out on the rest of us. How can any of us trust that you and whomever you are partnering with will be any better? How can we be assured that you can build us a tennis court and swimming pool and all the rest of the things you claim you can do. How can we believe that you can survive?

      1. Actually, I don’t consider it inevitable or that I have just “delayed” the inevitable. I am hopeful that we will be successful and will save the entire club and all 27 holes from the ruination that is forthcoming so long as Mr. Tuck owns the property. The fact that you and the others support Mr. Tuck, an absentee owner for the last 20 plus years, over people who have played golf with you and been friends with you for the last thirty plus years and have never given anyone any reason to mistrust them, says everything I need to know. Mr. Tuck has achieved his first goal: divide and conquer. But, I will not go so quietly into the night and watch my property values and those of my friends all around go down the tubes. Just imagine if throughout history the minority had always bent to the will of the majority.

      2. Mr. Forshay, I don’t think the majority supports Mr. Tuck. Talk to 95% of the homeowners on the North (there are only 2 exceptions that I can think of). As to the members, there are about 8 vocal proponents of Mr. Tuck (you, Tico Gimbel, Ken House, Mike Illers, Gino Beta, Don Rexroad, Keith McCumber, Monte Bond), the rest of the membership either doesn’t live in Killearn or care, or are against the illusory plan presented by Mr. Tuck. Those of you who are in favor aren’t considering any facts, just blindly following like a heard of sheep. It is disgusting to witness. I for one am a member who wasn’t even given an opportunity to participate in the selection of this “panel” that apparently was designed and implemented to defeat the purchase option. What a joke. All members should be disgusted at this point, particularly by this three person panel stunt.

        1. Sorry Jim, but the members who voted on Tuck’s proposal was over 80% in favor. That’s a lot more than a few. In addition, the vote coming in from JUST the North homeowners was about 50% for and 50% against, so your math does not ad up on either account. The facts are the facts.

          1. Paul, only 55.1% of the total membership voted in favor of Mr. Tuck… 28 members and their families voted in favor of purchasing… A number of others, including myself didn’t participate in this straw vote because the facts are not available for an educated decision.

          2. More “interesting math” to consider: The 3-person panel published in Tallahassee Reports the total number of voters and non-voters adds up to 461. The panel publicized they were approved by a vast majority of 195 people, over 90% of those who voted. My calculator says 195 is 42.30% of 461. That is NOT a majority of members. Is it possible numbers are being presented according to whatever the need of the moment may be? If it’s convenient to talk about the majority of those who voted, so be it. If it’s convenient to talk about the majority of total club membership, that’s OK if need be. And before anyone starts attacking me and accusing me of the crime of the moment, because this discussion is taking place in a public forum, I believe I have the right to ask the following: Do the members know what formula is being used to determine the outcome of these “votes”? Do the members know who is counting the votes and what audit and control measures are in place prior to them taking place? Appreciate anyone who can satisfy my curiosity.

  11. I find it to be pretty sorry that the so called volunteers won’t identify themselves, I got the email as well from the “preserve Killearn” group, and it looked like it was from the KHOA. I am all in favor of letting Mr. Tuck do what is necessary to improve our club. I trust Mr. Illers, Mr. Gimbel, as well as Mr. Betta to protect our interest. I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Forshay about the mounting legal fees, it makes me ill that my money is being spent on something I am totally against.

  12. I believe all members of KGCC were provided with a copy of the document signed by Mr. Tuck indicating what would be done with assets from the sale of any KGCC property. Let’s move on to issues yet to be settled.

  13. The three member panel supposed to represent the members who want to purchase are all opposed to the purchase? Why did they want the job?

  14. So, Discusted Member,what would be your plan? It’s one thing to complain about the intentions of the owner, it’s quite another to come up with a better plan.

  15. It is appalling how gullible the majority of KCC members are. Barton Tuck bought the club in 1996 for $6 million. Since that time, he has collected over $11 million in lease fees from the management company he fired last year. All that time, he let the club deteriorate without proper maintenance. Now he claims to need money from the sale of a portion of the course in order to improve it. Why didn’t he reinvest any of his profits since 1996? Why do you think he will do anything other than ruin the club and take his profits?

    His idea of improvement will be to one day remove the wheels from the double wide that will serve as the clubhouse.

    A sucker is born every minute. When they are old enough, they join Killearn CC.

  16. This June 2015 Letter to the Editor seems like what’s happening here.

    “Diversionary War Theory” states that leaders who are threatened by domestic turmoil may initiate an international conflict in order to shift the nation’s attention away from internal troubles.

    Alternatively, “Domestic Diversionary War Theory” has the same objective by pitting group against group.

    Domestic diversionary war plays on fear and envy in group politics. An additional benefit besides diversion is to make a group feel surrounded, embattled, threatened, persecuted so they vote predicatively en mass for their perceived “savior” or “champion”.

    Domestic diversionary war also negates the need for vision, productivity and accountability. Fear, envy and misdirection trump game plans that benefit all.

  17. Of course this assumes Mr. Tuck is being honest. Look at his track record folks before jumping to any conclusions. Is it that hard to believe he will sell off certain property, pocket the money, and leave Killearn high and dry? He has no incentive, especially at his age, to invest any further monies into the club.

  18. Sounds like a no-brainer to me. Let the owner exercise his plan to improve the club and course at no expense to the member. Duh!

  19. Thank you Gino, Mike, and Tico for finally telling like it is. Some group who calls themselves “Preserve Killearn” has been sending propaganda to Killearn residents in a form that makes it appear that they represent the Homeowners Association, which is incorrect. They also are spreading unfounded rumors about the owner that borders on slander. They have been called out on it bt tha Association. As a member, I will continue to support Mr. Tuck’s plan for restructure..

    1. Mr. Forshay,
      I am one of the many volunteers who are Killearn Estates homeowners who want to make sure our community and KCC members are presented with factual information, ensuring they hear all sides of the issues, not just Mr. Tuck’s. The volunteers work hard to make sure information we send is factual, not propaganda. Recent communications were designed to make sure everyone understands there are many issues being ruled upon by the courts, that there are long-term ramifications to the issues of golf course development, and ALL sides need to exert patience until things are clarified and ruled on.

      I am not aware that Preserve Killearn EVER represented themselves as being affiliated with the KHOA, or that they have been “called out on” anything. It is true the KHOA and Preserve Killearn MUTUALLY AGREED to make the distinction between the two clearer. Apparently people insisted upon misinterpreting phrasing, and Preserve Killearn wanted to ensure the Association was not being harassed and devoting their valuable time to dealing with residents who have nothing better to do than perpetually complain. Preserve Killearn has always and will always continue to cooperate with the Association in a respectful and non-inflammatory way.

      Finally Mr. Forshay, you may be a Member of the Club, but your home is not golf course frontage and is nowhere near ANY part of the golf course. Your home is nowhere near the proposed conservation area, or the land which may possibly be developed and become apartments and other commercial facilities. Your home is nowhere near the Shamrock Streets, which will have increased traffic traveling well above the posted 30 mph speed limit. Your house, though technically part of Killearn Estates, is located quite a distance away from the homes which are in the part of Killearn which may experience a significant drop in property value. It appears the only skin you have in the game is you want a new clubhouse, even if it means sacrificing the financial security and property enjoyment of your neighbors.

      Perhaps you might want to do as Preserve Killearn has suggested and exert patience while waiting for the Court to make its rulings and provide clarifications.

      1. Preserve Killearn “Volunteer”,
        Everyone that follows these remarks by “Preserve Killearn” recognizes that you refuse to identify yourself, or other “volunteers” that post messages or send unsolicited emails to also unidentified receivers of your comments. I, for one, am not afraid to let it be known my stance on these matters. As for you sending your emails, I never said you represented KHOA. What I said was “that makes it APPEAR that they represent the Homeowners Association”. That is much different. As for your “not being called out”, that is untrue. The Executive Director of the homeowners association has sent me an email that says, and I quote: “As of yesterday, Preserve Killearn has been instructed to use a disclaimer in all communications in which KHA and/or its activities are mentioned”. “Has been INSTRUCTED” is much different than “MUTUALLY AGREED”, and if that’s not being called out, then your definition is different than mine. As for the supposed increased traffic, and cars that travel above the posted limit of 30mph , that that has nothing to do with the closing of the North 9 holes and sale offer to the members that is being contested. When the owner begins to apply for permits to do some of the other things that was proposed in his plan of restructure, THAT will be the proper time to complain and argue with the city planning and zoning boards. That has absolutely nothing to do with this early phase of his plan which is to close down the North 9. I may even side with any objections to what happens then. The instant issue is about closing the North 9 and whether or not his offering the club for sale, and the manner it was done is legal, and asking the court to decide that issue. As for where my home is located and why it matters to me, it is BECAUSE I AM a member as you say. ARE YOU? This whole issue is about the members and not the Homeowners Association or, as far as I know Preserve Killearn, because they are not members. I also have reservations about MY association getting involved in the lawsuit as they have no skin in that either. They have spent almost $65,000 on legal expenses, much of it mostly over this member’s issue. As an example of this, last year through the same period, they had only spent slightly over $13,000 on legal expenses. This is MY and my neighbor’s dues they are spending on an issue on which they do not belong, nor have any control over.

        1. Maybe I’m missing something, but what does speeding on Shamrock Street have to do with the golf course? Seems like these people are trying to address different issues our neighborhood faces.

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