Neighbors of West Neck golf community in Virginia Beach angry ‘spite fence’
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Tom Luckman used to sit on a bench in his garden, sipping coffee and admiring the view.
He and his wife, Sis, live on what was once hole 3 of the Arnold Palmer-designed Signature at West Neck golf course in the southern part of town.
The Luckmans’ home, in the villages of West Neck, retreats to the fairway where golfers hit their second shot on the green. His wife, who had a stroke years ago and can’t speak, loved to look out the picture window in their living room.
But a few weeks ago, they lost their sight. And the view for some of its neighbors too. They all had also recently complained to the owner of the golf course, WC Capital, about the invasive weeds.
The company erected a sturdy eight-foot-high metal fence across the rear property line of three houses. The fence stops within a yard of a resident who has not raised concerns, then the fence begins again.
“A fence of spite,” said Luckman, 77. “They just want to send a message. It’s bullying 101.
Problems with the golf course started two years ago, when the original owner abruptly shut it down.
Dickie Foster, of Baymark Golf, cited financial problems as the reason in a letter sent to golf course members in September 2019.
The villages of West Neck were also Foster’s baby. It’s a community for those 55 and over, designed to complement the golf course. Its serene streets are lined with manicured lawns and ranch houses.
“The perfect place to retire,” said Joe Kuhn, 85, who has lived there for 10 years.
Luckman, a Navy veteran, moved to Gallahad Drive in 2010.
“It had checked everything,” he said. “Most of us put in what we had, savings, and we were going to stay here until the end.”
About six months after the golf course closed, in the spring of 2020, WC Capital bought it out in foreclosure for $ 2.3 million. WC Capital was organized in New Mexico, but it is not known who owns it. The only member is a Florida citizen, according to lawyer John McIntyre of Norfolk, the company’s registered agent. McIntyre declined to identify the owner.
At first, WC Capital sporadically mowed the courses on the golf course, but this was not as frequent as when the golf course was operating, Luckman said.
To keep troublesome weeds from spreading, Luckman and some of his neighbors mowed the edge of the golf course that recedes into their backyard.
But the weeds continued to grow. Mice and snakes roamed the yards and homes of residents. The poorly maintained golf course ponds have become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, Luckman said.
Luckman’s most recent property assessment has fallen by tens of thousands of dollars.
But it wasn’t just the money and the sight that slipped through her fingers.
The golf course was a big part of his social life. He and his neighbors played on the golf course together. The Luckmans were having brunch in the clubhouse after church and celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.
“It took the guts of our community,” he said.
Residents mobilized to try to save the golf course and formed an advisory committee. They reached out to a top local developer to see if they would consider purchasing it. They pitched the idea of strengthening the homeowners association, Luckman said. It would take millions of dollars just to maintain it, let alone buy it.
Over the summer, the city of Virginia Beach sued WC Capital for failing to maintain ownership of the golf course. A bench trial is scheduled for April 2022, according to Deputy City Attorney Christopher Boynton.
In July, WC Capital met with planning staff at Virginia Beach to suggest developing senior apartments on the golf course. This would require a zoning change. The land is zoned for preservation. At the request of staff, the company held meetings with residents to get their feedback.
At the end of his rope in early September, Luckman wrote a letter to WC Capital citing the invasive weeds as a “private nuisance.”
McIntyre, the firm’s attorney, offered a six-page response, threatening to retaliate if Luckman or others “chose to take legal action.”
“WCC has always been open to discussions with surrounding communities regarding the future of the property, if only to correct the misinformation that is constantly circulating,” McIntyre wrote in the letter to Luckman on September 14.
A fence was ahead, McIntyre wrote: “WCC assumes that it would be in the best interests of both parties to close the line between properties. “
Luckman responded, explaining in a letter that a fence would make the problem worse and, if built, would have to meet community standards for the villages of West Neck. Black aluminum palisades three to four feet high are permitted.
Earlier this month, a contractor started building the sturdy metal fence along Luckman’s back property line. It spans 165 feet in Luckman’s yard; stops in the yard of his neighbors, then starts again. The fence currently borders three houses, including that of Kuhn, who lives two doors down from Luckman.
Kuhn also wrote a letter to the company asking for the grass to be cut.
“My letters to them were, ‘Please cut the grass,’ and their response was, ‘If you don’t have very good eyesight, we’ll put the fence up,’ Kuhn said.
The lawyer for the West Neck Homeowners Association has asked WC Capital to remove the fence by November 4. Luckman doesn’t count.
“This place was wonderful,” he said. “They really stole the joy from the sight.”
Stacy Parker, 757-222-5125, firstname.lastname@example.org
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