A tumbleweed floated atop a green pond near the eighth green at the Club at Vistoso in Oro Valley. The slowly evaporating water hazard is bordered by unkempt Bermuda grass fairways that lie dormant on all sides, with a putting green that’s more dirt than grass.
Dick Surowiec, whose home abuts the eighth hole, has watched the 18-hole course steadily decline since it closed last June, after the previous operator, OB Sports, couldn’t turn a profit.
“At this particular point in time, they’re not maintaining anything,” Surowiec said. “The pond that’s over here is slowly drying up and becoming very odorous and people have a great deal of concern.”
Surowiec, who sits on the Vistoso Community Association board of directors, is one of hundreds of homeowners who are watching the Tom Wiskopf-designed course decline. But as the public’s interest in golf fades, the future of the course remains very much uncertain.
Last year, a potential buyer, Alan Mishkin of the Parks Legacy Project, tried to work out a deal to acquire the course. Mishkin’s proposed $3.5 million purchase of the course from Canadian bank, Romspen Mortgage Investment Firm was announced in August, with a letter of intent signed between the parties in August.
But that deal was contingent upon the HOA paying the course’s outstanding $360,000 water bill, as well as asking Vistoso Community Partners to cover future water bills in exchange for receiving the deed to the course and then leasing the course back to the Parks Legacy Project for $1 a year for 100 years.
Vistoso Community Association attorney Jason E. Smith said the proposal was too much for residents to swallow.
“The Mishkin group was seeking a boondoggle, a real sweetheart deal,” Smith said.
Mishkin remains optimistic the two sides can strike a deal, saying he’s made multiple trips to the community in hopes of brokering an agreement.
“We had a letter-of-intent agreement, and I’m not going to get into everything because I’m still interested in doing the deal,” Mishkin said.
Mishkin’s proposal calls for rezoning an unused portion of the course, putting 121 homes and 129 additional units of other types of residential development on the land.
That development would help cover the cost of infrastructure improvements needed on the property, including irrigation, club house and cart path fixes Mishkin estimates to be $2.5 million.
The two sides’ previous deal was canceled in late October after a local resident came forward with a plan to reopen the course without the community’s assistance. That plan fell through less than a week later, according to Smith, resulting in the current stalemate as the course continues to suffer from not being watered.
Smith said the HOA wants the course to thrive, but that they will not ask thousands of members who have little interest in the course’s future.
“I’m not saying the deal could have never worked, but they were asking for an awful lot from the members of Rancho Vistoso,” Smith said. “There are 400 or 500 owners that are going to be most directly impacted, and the Rancho Vistoso Master Association, they’ll have 8,000 voting members, thousands of whom have no interest at all and really no connection to the golf course.”
Smith said the Vistoso Community Association “has an interest in having the property next door look nice or be productive or something. But we have a limited amount of leverage or authority in the situation.”