Residents sue over fees to use golf course
Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club homeowners say
they were promised free golf for life but are now charged
a fee. The management company says it can no longer afford the agreement. 
Article Courtesy of the St. Petersburg Times
Published March 25, 2003 

DADE CITY -- Seeing their promise of free golf for life evaporate, a band of homeowners at Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club last month took their fight to the streets. 

Now they've taken the battle to the courts. 

The development's homeowners association sued Friday in Circuit Court against course managers Transeastern Properties and Bayswater Tampa Bay. The lawsuit claims management is backing out of promises to Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club buyers, who were told they would get golf free for life -- including some with free cart trail use -- when they bought their homes in the mid 1990s. 

The lawsuit, association attorney Charles Waller said, is as simple as it looks. Buyers were promised that the purchase of the home lot ensured them free golf privileges for life. But in December they were notified that the deal was off, and they would have to pay $1,100 per couple each year for golf course access fees and up to $1,100 a year to use cart paths. 

Waller included with his lawsuit a 1996 newspaper advertisement for the property. 

"Golf course living under the 100's . . . Only 50 lots remaining with free golf for life," the advertisement reads. 

Waller said management began charging golf fees in January and has barred from the course those who won't pay. The development stands to make up to $800,000 a year from the new fees and probably won't give up without a fight, he said. 

Last month, homeowners started picketing outside Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club's entrance along State Road 54. 

Transeastern officials could not be reached for comment Monday. But after a February protest, Transeastern vice president Bob Krieff said his company had honored the old 'free golf" contract for four years but could no longer afford to do so. 

In February, Krieff said he welcomed a lawsuit as a way to settle the disagreement. He said he was confident that the management company would win. 

The promise of free golf was included in new home contracts with original builder Dale Whittington, Krieff said. Transeastern isn't obliged to fulfill Whittington's lifetime offer, which wasn't legally recorded and wasn't disclosed to Transeastern when it bought out Whittington in 1998, he said. 

The lawsuit filed Friday by Waller asks the court to inspect the homeowners' purchase agreements and rule on the status of the free golf contracts. 

The lawsuit asks that the golf fees collected by the development be returned. 

READ : Golfers howl over charges for 'free golf'