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Ruling stops developer from turning golf course into condos

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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- A ruling by a bankruptcy court judge has stopped a developer from turning at least part of a North Myrtle Beach golf course into condominiums.

Eastport Golf Club homeowners have been fighting the redevelopment for close to two years. Their lawyer said the ruling sets a precedent along the Grand Strand and should be a lesson to homeowners to check covenants and restrictions when faced with possible redevelopment.

"It's an important decision as far as I'm concerned. The only other community that attempted to stop (redevelopment of a golf course) is Deertrack. All other golf courses have just closed in our area," attorney Patrick O'Dea said.

Judge John E. Waites said residential redevelopment is not allowed by the homeowners' deed restrictions, which say the property is for "golf course use only."

The golf course is owned by Eastport Golf Club Inc., which is owned by Charlotte, N.C., businessman Mel Graham. He is disappointed with the ruling.

"I am however, happy for the homeowners at Eastport if indeed this is the outcome the majority of the residents really wanted. I must add that I do not believe that the leadership at Eastport understands the negative impact this will ultimately have on their community," Graham said.

Graham's original plan in late 2005 was to turn the golf course into 1,100 condos. He could do so because the course was losing money. Then earlier this year, Graham filed the course in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and submitted a reorganization plan that would keep a smaller golf course but redevelop part of the property into 920 condos.

Now that he can't redevelop, Graham said he will attempt to sell the course. "Unfortunately, we do not know of any potential buyers at this time," he said.

An oversupply of golf courses has contributed to the closing of 16 other Strand courses for planned redevelopment since January 2005. Three courses at Bay Tree Plantation have closed within a few miles of Eastport, and at least two others intend to close nearby.

"There really isn't a market for selling these courses," said Rick Mendoza, attorney for Eastport Golf Club Inc. "It's going to remain closed."

Residents of the golf club are glad the condos won't be built and are waiting to see what happens next, Eastport Community Association president Don Metzger said.

"We're very encouraged that our community will be able to remain intact and continue as it now exists," Metzger said. "We hope that things can get back to normal."

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Information from: The Sun News, http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com

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