Last Updated: May 17, 8 a.m.
A day before a court hearing where it faced a final judgment of foreclosure, Group Golf of Palm Coast, owner of the long-disused Matanzas golf course property at the north end of town, filed for bankruptcy in what the city sees as another attempt to delay foreclosure.
The filing does not mean the city gets to take possession of the property: several hurdles remain, and city ownership is not certain–or apparently desired by the city–even past those hurdles.
“The delays continue,” City Manager Jim landon emailed the council the day after the filing. “We will continue our efforts as aggressively as legally possible to bring this property into compliance with our Codes.”
The golf course, disused for a decade, has been an eyesore for the hundreds of residential properties surrounding its nearly 300 acres in the L Section, barely looking like a golf course anymore except in outlines because of overgrowth. Group Golf had long contended that its property was not under the same mowing rules as operating golf courses.
The bankruptcy notice falls six months after Group Golf and Palm Coast government had reached a settlement in a lawsuit the city filed in October 2016 over unpaid fines. Group Golf had agreed to pay $58,553 in utility bills and a $170,138 code enforcement lien, plus $60,000 in attorneys’ fees. Group Golf paid the utility bill but not the rest. Since the settlement agreement was conditional on full payment in installments over a period of time, the agreement was nullified and the city moved to foreclose.
On May 10, Debra Babb-Nutcher, one of the city’s lawyers, emailed Michael Yoakan–who owns Group Golf with Christopher Wickersham Jr.–the final judgment of foreclosure, what was to be filed the following day in circuit court for consideration by Judge Chris France.
“Well I certainly appreciate y’all transmitting that proposed order,” Christopher Wickersham Jr. wrote Debra Babb-Nutcher two hours later, with obvious sarcasm. “it really is very pretty. Solid 1” x 1” margins, all in justified font, everything looks great. Thank you for sending it.”
The same day, Group Golf filed for bankruptcy. (Four days later the court informed Group Golf the filing was deficient, though that’s not relevant as far as Palm Coast is concerned.) A meeting with creditors is scheduled for June 27 in Jacksonville in the context of the bankruptcy. It’s up to creditors, including Palm Coast, to decide whether to attend.
Heidi Shipley, one of the council members, had received an inquiry from a constituent wondering about the fate of the property, post-bankruptcy filing. Bill Reischmann, also a city attorney, outlined the steps ahead in detail this way: “The City does not control the property. That will not happen unless and until we are able to remove our foreclosure lawsuit from the bankruptcy proceeding, reschedule the hearing, obtain a final judgment of foreclosure, and be the successful purchaser at the foreclosure sale. For now, the bankruptcy court has jurisdiction over what happens on and to the property. We are preparing a Motion asking the Bankruptcy Court to allow us to proceed with foreclosure action(called relief from stay).”
He asked Barbara Grossman, the city’s code enforcement director, to “let us know if the property condition falls into disrepair/code violation again. If that happens we can ask the bankruptcy court for an order requiring Group Golf to fix the property.”
After this article appeared, Landon wrote a brief email to the council, attaching Reischmann’s email–which the council had apparently not seen until it was disclosed by FlaglerLive–but also walking back Reischmann’s suggestion that the city may at any point take ownership of the property.
Calling it a “clarification,” Landon said that “the city has no plans to submit a bid on the subject property if it does go through the foreclosure process. So we do not anticipate owning (controlling) the property after foreclosure, if foreclosure ever happens.”
As of Wednesday, Palm Coast had not filed any documents with the bankruptcy court. The bankruptcy case is 3:18-bk-1581.