PHOENIXVILLE — Citing a lack of cooperation from a pair of owners of the Meadow Brook Golf Club, the Phoenixville Area School Board voted Monday to take “immediate” possession of the property.
Bruce Campbell, half of the CY Group, which owns 50 percent of the golf club, said the district should have all the paperwork it requested and is trying to make him out to be “the bad guy” in the dispute.
In a 7-0 vote at a special board meeting Monday night, with Irfan Khan and Paul Slaninka absent, the board approved submitting a writ of possession for the Meadow Brook property.
Although a recent Chester County Court decision transferred ownership of the property to the district, Meadow Brook Golf Club is continuing to operate as a golf course.
The writ will be filed Tuesday morning and the owners of Meadow Brook have five days to respond, according to Phoenixville Superintendent Alan Fegley.
Campbell made it clear that he isn’t planning on letting any district personnel onto Meadow Brook property for surveys they plan this week.
“They won’t have (the writ) by Wednesday or Thursday so they’re not coming on the property,” he told 21st Century Media Monday night.
At the end of last month, Chester County Judge Jacqueline Carroll Cody ruled against objections filed by the CY Group, made up of Campbell and Patricia Young, against the eminent domain acquisition for that the school board voted on last November.
“Because CY Group Inc. has failed to prove that the taking by the [Phoenixville Area School District] is overbroad and excessive, their preliminary objections are overruled,” Cody wrote in her decision.
Phoenixville Area School District hopes to build a combined early-learning center and elementary school on 50-plus acre property along with athletic fields and a maintenance building.
The window is still open for a Meadow Brook appeal, according to the district. Campbell said his lawyer filed post-trial motions and also a legal challenge regarding Sunshine Act violations they believe were committed by the school board.
He said a ruling on the post-trial motions isn’t set until September.
Timing was given as the reason the school district’s administration recommended approving the “immediate” taking of the property.
Fegley said the district is moving forward with land planning and, to go to Schuylkill Township with the proper plans, district officials need a survey of the Meadow Brook property done.
In a meeting July 1, Fegley said he and school board President Joshua Gould spoke with Campbell in person and Young on the phone to discuss how things would move forward. A survey was agreed-upon to be conducted last Wednesday, July 16, according to Fegley.
He classified the talks that day as “cordial.”
When Wednesday rolled around, Fegley said the CY Group declined the survey work. Fegley, Stan Johnson, the district’s executive director of operations, and surveyors went over to Meadow Brook and met with Campbell and Young.
“I let them know if we did not have discussions and a signed lease by Monday at 4 p.m., that the recommendation I would give the board was called a writ of possession,” Fegley said. “A writ of possession is going to court and saying, ‘We want to take possession of this property immediately.’ With a writ, it would mean immediately closing [the property] and potentially mean the immediate closing of the golf course.”
A date in mid-October was decided upon as the closing date for the golf season during initial discussions July 1 between the district contingent and the CY Group, according to Fegley. The course could operate until then and Meadow Brook’s owners could continue to remain on the property until December to make the closing preparations and sell off equipment.
That would require a lease from the district, however.
Fegley said there has been no progress on negotiations for a lease. Campbell said what the district has proposed is “unacceptable.”
Additionally, the district has concerns over the operation of a business on land it legally owns now. The main concern is that the district may not have full coverage if an injury occurs on the golf course.
Johnson said the district requested that Meadow Brook add it to the current insurance policy.
“It’s certainly not an action I wanted to do or recommend to you or take very lightly,” Fegley said of the writ. “I do have to say, over the next few days, there’s been minimal correspondence between them [and us]. I sent them questions and they did not get back to me ... they have yet to get me the insurance policy.”
Campbell said his insurance company faxed their policy Wednesday.
Johnson said they received no fax.
In the following days, Fegley sent an email asking even just for the name of the insurance company. He said he received no reply.
“To put it simply, we’re the legal owners of the property at this point,” after Cody’s decision, Gould said. “So they’re operating a business on that property and we have no agreement with them on their operation of that business.”
Although the writ is scheduled to be filed in court Tuesday morning, there is still the opportunity to negotiate a lease that will keep the golf course in operation this year.
“We can continue working on a lease,” Gould said. “We’d like to have a lease done today, if they’re willing to talk about a lease. We’ve made that abundantly clear that that’s our desire.”
Fegley said an attorney representing the Brown family, who also have stakes in the golf club’s ownership, does not object to a lease agreement.
Monday night, Campbell said he’s willing to sit down to discuss a lease and even a price for the property, which still has to be determined by a court-appointed “board of view.” However, he feels the way things stand is unfair, calling the district “bullies.”
“They’re making me out to be the bad guy,” he said. “They’re basically trying to steal the golf course. You want it? Let’s sit down.”
Here’s a quick Twitter recap of Monday night’s meeting.
Check out a past story on negotiations between the Phoenixville Area School District and Meadow Brook before eminent domain.