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Real Estate - Residential

Echo Farms Residents Seek Injunction Against Golf Course Redevelopment

By Cece Nunn, posted Dec 15, 2016
Echo Farms residents said Thursday that they are asking a judge to halt the redevelopment of the Echo Farms golf course.

"This morning at 11:09 Echo Farms Residents’ Association’s attorney, F. Murphy Averitt III, filed a motion in New Hanover County Superior Court to enjoin the Matrix Development Group and its local subsidiary, Echo Farms LLC, from proceeding with its published plans to bulldoze the Echo Farms Golf Course and erect a mix of apartments, condos and small lot single family houses in its place," said a Thursday afternoon update from Echo Farms Preservation, a group started by Echo Farms residents when they found out about the potential redevelopment.

The update also said, "The motion asks the court to require Matrix to comply with various restrictive covenants in place on the property and continue to operate the property as a golf course."

Matrix Development Group officially submitted a site plan to the city of Wilmington on Dec. 2 for The Woodlands at Echo Farms, which showed 171 single family homes, 125 townhomes and 240 multi-family units replacing the golf course, in addition to enhanced amenities. The plans are expected to be considered during a city Technical Review Committee meeting Dec. 22.

According to the Thursday filing, the plaintiffs-- the Echo Farms Residents Association Inc. and other property owners -- claim deeds associated with Echo Farms LLC's purchase of the golf course contain the restrictive covenants that prohibit Matrix's plans. 

The filing also says that on Nov. 15, Matrix Golf and Hospitality, which operates the golf course and country club on behalf of Matrix Development, sent a letter to the club's members indicating that all memberships would be terminated Dec. 31 and replaced by the ability to purchase passes. 

During an interview with the Greater Wilmington Business Journal earlier this month, when asked about potentially starting construction in 2017, CEO of Matrix Development Group Joe Taylor said, "I think it would be awfully ambitious to be out there digging in 2017." He added, however, "I think in an ideal world we would be able to break ground by the end of the year [2017]." 

Of the golf course membership issue, Taylor said, "We anticipate we'll be staying open for the vast majority of the 2017 season. Our employees are dedicated, hardworking people, and we intend to keep them fully engaged, fully employed and servicing the local constituents for the 2017 season."

He said, "The season pass allows us to do the exact same things that the 'membership' allowed us to do, which is to cease operations [of the golf course] essentially at any point in time."

The injunction request is the latest in a conflict that has escalated between the developers, who say the golf course isn't profitable and hasn't been for many years, and residents' groups, who want the course to stay put. In October, the same group that filed the injunction asked the city to rezone the golf course from a category that allows apartments to a lower-density designation, a rare third-party request that the city has allowed to proceed through the traditional rezoning channels.
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