Condo owners demand answers on golf course operation, finance
By Gerald Rogovin
Back in early October, readers of CapeCodToday.com learned of what was described as "a boiling controversy" among residents of the Kings Way condominium community on Route 6A in Yarmouth Port.
The boiling point is rising. The controversy has expanded, and threatens to divide the 400-plus homeowners.
A lengthy, noisy meeting
Two weeks ago, the largest turnout ever -- more than 200 residents -- attended the Kings Way annual meeting. The lengthy, noisy meeting was filled with demands from the audience to know what is happening. These meetings are always scheduled in December, when about 60 percent of homeowners are off-Cape, in warmer climes.
Petitions seeking documentation of the operating costs of Kings Way's 18-hole, par-60 golf course were signed in November by almost 49 percent of homeowners, excluding Heatherwood, the congregant living facility on the 200-acre grounds.
For years, the golf course's directors refused to disclose such specifics to homeowners. Yet, according to the Declaration of Trust of the Kings Way Trust, that information must be provided. Every purchaser of a condominium in the community receives a copy of the Declaration.
Residents petition to inspect records
Section 10 (Miscellaneous Provisions) of the Declaration states, "Books, accounts and records of the Trustees shall be open to inspection to any one or more of the Trustees and the resident Unit Owners...at all reasonable times."
In the opinion of many owners, that requires the Kings Way Trust to reveal what golf course professionals, grounds managers and other employees are being paid, and what it costs each year to operate the course.
The question prompted the petition when the Kings Way Trust imposed a $79-per-month tax on non-golfing homeowners beginning in January, to bail golf course members from a financial deficit. In 2009, the monthly per unit tax was $30.
A $72,000 deficit was sustained in 2008, according to several golf course members, who did not want to be identified.
The petition, written by a group of 14 homeowners, questioned the fairness of taxing non-golfing homeowners to support golf memberships of 200 people, half of whom do not live in Kings Way.
Public vs. private and an appeal
Controversy was not the only reason for the high attendance at the annual meeting. A second cause was an appeal filed in Barnstable Superior Court to a decision by Yarmouth's Zoning Board of Appeals.
A unanimous vote by the board allowed the Kings Way golf course to welcome 8,000 rounds of public play in 2010 as a way to reduce its operating deficit. The appeal, filed by
Davenport Realty Trust and DeWitt P. Davenport, Trustee, contended that a special permit from the town issued for public play when Kings Way and the golf course were being built had expired.
Repeated extensions granted by the appeals board of a variance to permit public play expired in 2000, according to Davenport. It also operates a par-60 golf course, the Blue Rock Golf Resort, in South Yarmouth.
ZBA exceeded authority according to Davenport
Davenport seeks unspecified financial relief and annulment of the appeals board decision, arguing that the board exceeded its authority.
Sharon Donegan, chairperson of the Kings Way Trust, argued before the appeals board on November 12 that the Kings Way golf course needs public play to survive. Should the course fail, she said, the loss in value of Kings Way properties and the erosion of Yarmouth's tax base would hurt all town residents.
The Trust assumed management of the golf course in early November when it became apparent that its directors could not solve its financial problems. She suggested to the appeals board that a "deconstructed" golf course would not be as aesthetically pleasing as the existing one.
The subject of public play at Kings Way involved the issuance of special permits going back to 1975, when the town granted a variance that was limited to the community's construction period. Several extensions were granted, in 1984, 1988 and 1996. Based on its
assumption that the golf course would be self-supporting when all the condominiums were
completed, the appeals board extended permission in 1999 for three years.
Davenport's suit contends that the town bylaws prohibited dwelling units with accessory
golf courses under special permit north of Route 6 after December 31, 2000, when the
variance allowing public play expired.
9 and dine no more
Members discontinued several successful programs allowing public play when they decided the golf course should be private a few years ago. One, the popular "9 and Dine", permitted golfers outside Kings Way to play nine holes, and eat at the Kings Way restaurant for a special price.
Golf course members promoted "9 and Dine" to Kings Way homeowners as an income producer and a way to attract the interest of outsiders in buying condominiums.
The petition group promised at the December 8 Kings Way Trust annual meeting that it would continue as a "watchdog" to monitor the community's governing body. That promise
came after one resident made a passionate appeal for "relief of these excessive charges."
Kings Way is governed by two trusts. A second one oversees the community's open space, of which the golf course is a part. Its interim chairman, Harold Cohen, told the annual meeting that the trustees had erred when they exempted Heatherwood residents from the same special assessments imposed on homeowners to support the golf course.
It was done under the threat of a lawsuit, he recalled. That mistake should be corrected,