During a trip to the northwest Las Vegas valley recently, I decided to cruise the neighborhood of Silverstone Golf Club.
Opened about ten years ago, Silverstone was a beautiful 27-hole golf course with hundreds of homes many of which were placed around an impressive golf course complete with nice fairways, lakes, and a clubhouse. Homebuyers couldn’t go wrong considering that golf course communities are never supposed to lose their value. Throw in the views of the golf course, and Silverstone was the perfect paradise.
The only problem is that the golf course was closed last September by the new owners. The residents of the community immediately went into caution mode as word spread that there were changes about to take place. The new owners said water was becoming too expensive and word began to spread that the course would be replaced by additional housing.
During my recent visit of the area, it was apparent that the golf course wasn’t the new owner's first priority. The lakes were virtually dry, and the fairways and the holes were brown and covered with weeds. I couldn’t help but sit in the car and gaze across the grounds while looking at the backs of houses owned by people who were promised gorgeous views and landscaping.
Besides, golfers are generally very nice people and you can just imagine leaning over your fence to exchange pleasantries. I mean, even for duffers of the profession, golf generally creates fun times that are remembered forever.
I’m also reminded of the words of the late real estate executive Jack Matthews, who once told me to get out on the golf course because the surroundings and the atmosphere would lead to business deals for PR types like myself. That was back in the 1990s when I was starting my PR business and Matthews’ advice proved correct.
But as the drought has entrenched itself so deeply in the Southern Nevada for many years, the owners of lots at Silverstone are slowly seeing their paradise turn into eyesores with no hope in sight.
Water has been a concern for many years. However, Silverstone's residents bought into the community thinking it would be there forever.
One golf course manager at Canyon Gate relocated from San Francisco in the 1990s, just in time to discover that grass had to be removed in lieu of desert landscaping to save water. What the new manager also discovered was that the owners of homes along the course wanted no part of looking at desert landscaping and they weren’t afraid to let her know about it.
The manager finally left Canyon Gate and reportedly escaped to Bear’s Best golf course, where the environment wasn’t so vocal simply because the course wasn’t as threatened by the owners of nearby homes in the southwest valley.
Meanwhile, Silverstone is decaying by the day and its homeowners don’t have a prayer. Or at least, it doesn’t seem so.
Because the property is now in foreclosure, the water has been turned off again. Residents are seeing their once-beautiful golf course turning into a dusty disaster with weeds and dead grass.
The focal point of everyone’s purchase has started to collect garbage and the surrounding neighborhoods are starting to see more graffiti.
At least a few residents paid cash for their homes thinking that they’d never have to move again. Throw in the rest of the homeowners who could not give away their properties at this point, and we have a modern-day disaster at its worst. The situation has grown to include an attitude of “I don’t give a damned” apparently as the new owners let the community decay by the day.
Interestingly, not far away is Floyd Lamb State Park, which has undergone a fascinating rejuvenation making it a must-see, complete with water,
For the life of me, I cannot fathom how the owners of properties at Silverstone could be cast aside like dust in the wind. The water has been turned off without any regard whatsoever as it relates to the homeowners in the area.
Can we possibly sit and watch as homeowners are losing tens of thousands of dollars in property valuations drop like a rock all because the water has again been turned off at Silverstone?
Talk about a development of deceit. One homeowner referred to Silverstone as being "a dead golf course."
Former Nevada State Senator Mike Schneider believes the missing element in the equation is the requirement of a performance bond prior to construction. He said the bond would be an added cost, but it would protect homeowners against setbacks such as the one at Silverstone.
This isn’t just another example of a neighborhood dying because it’s getting old. This one is dying because of a form of economic implosion on behalf of the owners of the golf course. You see, if you’re a member of a home owner’s association, you damned well better not forget to bring your garbage cans back to the garage, and you had better not have a basketball hoop at the end of your driveway because you’re ruining a neighborhood.
Yet, a new development owner can kill everything green and do so without any kind of penalty as homeowners sit helplessly.
Indeed, the drought has put us all in an awkward situation and the leaders of the golf industry are among those now scrambling.
In the words of the late developer Al Collins, the only people who are going to win this war are the attorneys – and that’s a damned shame.
An anonymous source tells me that the homeowners are covered because the HOA agreement includes the requirement that any changes to the golf course the golf course must be approved by the HOA with a 75 percent pass rate.
Also, hats off to the entire Las Vegas City Council for grilling the current owners while also levying more than $97,000 in fines. Councilman Bob Coffin led the charge and homeowners asked tough questions the community which includes about 1,400 residences. The current owners, Desert Lifestyles, entered bankruptcy thereby claiming they, too, are in over their heads on the ownership of the course.
With an attorney representing the debt holder, Coffin bristled when the council was asked to delay a decision to give the attorney more time. Mayor Carolyn Goodman was especially insistent adding that the water needed to be turned on soon.
“I have liked Silverstone because it includes middle-class people,” Coffin said. “The homes there are not mansions. Nowadays, a lot of people are not sympathetic about golf courses, but you have a totally different kind of community. This is not the wealthy part of town, and I’m sorry to see what has happened. We are going to do something.”
As far as the debtor is concerned, Coffin said, “You bought the note in the last sixth months and took a risk. You bought it at a deep discount, so I don’t have much sympathy for you. Nobody is taking a bigger haircut than the people who live there.
“These people are the ones that I feel sorry four. You guys knew the circumstances when you bought it.”
Meanwhile, Silverstone isn’t the first golf course to close and it represents a lot of people who are getting the shaft through no fault of their own. It’s a very sad story of many people whose homes have dropped dramatically in value, and it’s also a story big enough to make national news in the near future.
In short, this particular story will not generate good public relations for the city and many will wonder how such a thing could leave so many people on the hook.
“I have a house on the golf course,” said Tom Ells. “I paid $740,00 for the house including a $200,000 premium for the view. My house is now worth about $300,000 and we now have a combined $135 million loss among the homeowners.”
The immense losses are being mounted economically, physically and emotionally. While we’re at it, we can also throw in the health dangers considering standing water mini-lakes.
It’s sad. Damned sad and you can bet that the outcome will undoubtedly create negative feelings for anyone else in the country who has been considering living on a golf course. Some said Silverstone should be a warning to owners of others living in a golf course community.
In a nutshell, it’s not good public relations for Southern Nevada either. Throw the topic in the same pile as the one which currently represents the unfinished hotels in Southern Nevada, and you have a perfect disaster.