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Palm Coast Moves to Foreclose on Fallow Matanzas Woods Golf Course as Fines Mount

| December 7, 2016

matanzas woods golf course

The Matanzas Woods golf course, a 275-acre sprawl in the L Section of Palm Coast unused for almost 10 years, has been a thorn in the side of residents and the city for years. (© FlaglerLive)

The nightmare that’s been the Matanzas Woods Golf Course for Palm Coast government and residents around the course has turned into a legal duel between city government and the Jacksonville-based owners of the course: citing recurring code enforcement violations and unpaid fines, Palm Coast filed suit to foreclose on the property.

The filing follows a March filing by the golf course owners to enjoin the city against enforcing what the owners call “vague, unspecified and inapplicable ordinances.”

No hearing or follow-up was scheduled after the golf group filed its for the injunction, nor has Palm Coast responded to the complaint. A February 2 hearing, however, is scheduled on Palm Coast’s foreclosure action, before Circuit Judge Scott DuPont at the Flagler County Courthouse.

The so-called Group Golf of Palm Coast LLC bought the property two years ago for $266,800. Michael Yokan, the attorney of record on Palm Coast’s foreclosure suit and one of the two names listed as owners of the property, did not return a call Wednesday. Stephen Richardson, the other listed owner, told the News-Journal in January that he had plans for the property, and had been approached by “quite a few people about doing something with it,” but he revealed no further details.

As residents’ complaints mounted, so did a case against the property by Palm Coast’s Code Enforcement division. So did unpaid utility bills to the city. In the fall of 2015, with $500-a-day fines from alleged code enforcement violations exceeding $30,000 and utility bills unpaid, the city imposed a lien on the property, and the Code Enforcement Board declared the property in non-compliance. The fines, according to the court papers, “shall continue to run until the property is brought into compliance.”

There is no dollar figure in the papers since the 2015 total, but if the fines have accrued at a rate of $500 a day since, the total would exceed $200,000 by now. By March 2016, with the fines and liens unsatisfied, the Code Enforcement Board ordered the property foreclosed. The city filed the foreclosure action on Oct. 28.

In March, Golf Group claimed when it filed for an injunction that the city was violating its due process while “attempting to hold Golf Group to an unrealistic and unachievable standard of property maintenance.” The examples it cited were the city’s alleged requirement that the property must be maintained “free of weeds,” a standard Group Golf said was “completely arbitrary, irrational and discriminatory.” The group claimed properties neighboring the golf course and owned by the city were not held to the same “irrational standard.”

“Apparently,” the complaint stated, “in Palm Coast and Code Enforcement Officer Michael Esposito’s mind a single dandelion on the property is a code violation.” (Esposito has since left Palm Coast government to join Flagler County government as a special projects coordinator.)

The group also claims that the city is acting on behalf of Jim Cullis, the developer, who has been interested in the property.

The course itself had become overgrown with vegetation, drawing residents’ ire. The city has never claimed that the course must be mowed to the same standards as an occupied property with a front and back yard—or a usable golf course—but that it must nevertheless be appropriately and occasionally mowed, the way, for example, large, fallow tracts in Town Center are mowed.

The golf course was built in 1992 but hasn’t been used since around 2007.

Palm Coast v. Group Golf of Palm Coast (2016)

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12 Responses for “Palm Coast Moves to Foreclose on Fallow Matanzas Woods Golf Course as Fines Mount”

  1. palmcoaster says:

    Good move!
    Surrounding home owners have rights too!

  2. Veteran says:

    This doesn’t pass the smell test. I live on the course and it has never looked better. Waiting for the city to foreclose on my house because I have a few weeds. Going to have to sue True Green!

    Foreclose on the course and sell it to Jim Cullis for a song and dance. It’s all becoming clear now.

  3. Jw says:

    I believe Jim Cullis is already a silent partner in the course.

  4. Ray D says:

    You may be right veteran. Lets hope the owners live up to their proimses.

  5. PJ says:

    Please do foreclose! The owners can’t be trusted.

  6. Brad W says:

    I am glad to hear this. I am all for owners’ rights, but these owners have not met agreements on several occasions since purchasing that property from defaulting on the original loan, to not paying the utility fees, and then not paying the fines imposed on them for basic mowing. They have caused 2 parties unnecessary legal fees as well. I am glad to hear the City is stepping on this and hopefully we will finally see a positive outcome such as the one originally brought forward by Jim Cullis a few years ago which made perfect sense then and now.

  7. footballen says:

    Say it aint so!!!

  8. Heather says:

    Veteran, I don’t know what view you are seeing but I see huge chunks of broken concrete that were once cart paths, death traps that were once water obstacles, a party hang out that was once a clubhouse and a dump site that was once a maintenance area. An abandoned golf course is nothing but a dangerous and attractive nuisance.

  9. Miami says:

    Don’t foreclose! Cullis will turn the course into housing. I’d rather have overgrown than homes in my back yard.
    Give Jax owners incentives to keep golf course trimmed. We’d finally coming out of this recession.
    People walk their dogs, wildlife is abundant….so what.
    Pls do not foreclose!

  10. Heather says:

    Miami, you won’t have homes in your back yard. Palm Coast has an ordinance on the books that prohibits it. In short, if you bought on a golf course and that golf course fails, homes can’t be built on it. The only place on the Matanzas course that could be developed is around the club house, which alone wouldn’t be very lucrative.

    I know first hand, the owners “won’t take less than a million dollars.” Pine Lakes just sold for that and it’s a functioning course. If these owners can’t pay the upkeep and the taxes, they sure can’t pay to improve it or protect a wandering kid from drowning.

  11. Ray D says:

    Heather, roughly stated, the “ordinance” only states that the view behind a home on a golf course or what was a golf course cannot be made lesser. As it was explained in a city council meeting last year, this means that only the view directly behind an existing home cannot be lessened. Regardless, there is absolutely no way that property will ever be a golf course again. The city will not allow it. As it was explained to us by a city council person, the city does not want the competition for Palm Harbor. It would be in everyone’s best interest in L to finally get involved and stay involved. It may not be a golf course but it can be something very nice. Whatever, it will involve homes just not directly behind existing homes and this would hold true even if it was a golf course.

  12. brad says:

    Typical code enforcement, more than likely we will be paying damages to the owner of the property for malicious prosecution, for incorrectly stating the violation on the complaint. Another poorly executed city screw-up..

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