Fort Mill Times

Sale talks end for River Hills Country Club, River Hills Community Association

Sid LaMonica hits a drive Friday at River Hills Country Club.
Sid LaMonica hits a drive Friday at River Hills Country Club.

Two major groups in River Hills couldn’t come to an agreement aimed at improving the golf course and other facilities there, but both say a better outcome could await them.

The River Hills Community Association board was told Sept. 11 the River Hills Country Club board voted to turn down an agreement proposal four days prior. A Sept. 12 community association letter to its membership states the country club intended to cease negotiations after more than two years.

“It is definitely disappointing after over two years of discussions to arrive at such an ending,” the letter states. “We certainly respect the RHCC board decision and wish them well as they plan and direct the future of this vital part of River Hills.”

Jack Leff, president of the community association board, said despite intentions to end negotiations, there is “always the possibility” of the club re-opening dialogue.

“The River Hills Country Club is a major asset to River Hills (neighborhood),” Leff said. “It’s right in the middle. It’s something that you want to see do well and remain viable.”

Leff said his group is “sort of idle right now” as it waits to see what the club will do. Members of the community association “hope it works out for them,” Leff said. A strong club does nothing but help residents, from playing times to property values, and Leff wants whatever course the club takes to strengthen it.

“If it affords our members the amenities we were looking for and it works out well for them,” he said, “Everybody wins.”

Any partnership between the club and community association would have required votes of approval by both memberships. In the latest proposal, the community association would have purchased non-golf facilities including the clubhouse, pools, fitness center, tennis facility and parking lots for $700,000. The club would keep the golf course, pro shop, cart area and its half of a maintenance building.

The community association then would, according to the proposal, invest up to $2.5 million for repairs and remodeling. The improved facilities would have been leased back to the club for $1 per year, with the club operating and maintaining all facilities. All community association members would become resident members with clubhouse, fitness center, tennis and pool access, and would pay only greens fees for golf.

Jack Lilliendahl with the country club board said a town hall meeting for his membership is Sept. 26, followed by an open house at a later date with others.

“Most of that meeting is going to be, where are we going from here?” Lilliendahl said.

Despite difficult economic times for many golf courses, including the recent closing of a course at Regent Park in Fort Mill to make way for homes and apartments, Lilliendahl was quick to see the breakdown of negotiations isn’t catastrophic news for the club. The golf course could use more members, he said, but it isn’t going to close.

“Not happening here,” Lilliendahl said. “The country club is not in dire straits at all.”

The country club is discussing new membership programs “at very attractive rates,” and other plans largely growing out of the discussions with the community association.

“We learned very definitively what some of the needs of the community association are,” Lilliendahl said.

All nine country club board members are part of the community association. Of the nine community association board members, eight are members of the country club. Lilliendahl acknowledges how intertwined the groups are, and how important each is as a stakeholder to the other.

“There was a tremendous incentive on both sides to get something done,” he said.

Still, a wide-reaching partnership would be difficult given many River Hills residents don’t play golf or tennis, or for other reasons wouldn’t want increased assessments for the sake of partnering with the club. Finding another route, through new membership programs or otherwise, seemed a better fit.

“You have groups who would have naturally had no interest in it,” Lilliendahl said. “But there were groups of people who were very interested. It sort of meets the needs of both of them.”

John Marks: 803-831-8166