Tom Luckman used to sit on a bench in his backyard, sipping coffee and taking in the view.
He and his wife, Sis, live on what used to be Hole 3 of the Signature at West Neck golf course, designed by Arnold Palmer, in the southern part of the city.
The Luckmans’ home, in the Villages of West Neck, backs up to the fairway where golfers hit their second shot onto the green. His wife, who had a massive stroke years ago and can’t speak, liked to look out of the picture window in their living room.
But a few weeks ago, they lost their view. And so did the view for a couple of his neighbors. They had all who also complained recently to the golf course property owner, W.C. Capital, about overgrown weeds.
The company erected an eight-foot tall, solid metal fence across the rear property line of three homes. The fence stops at one yard of a resident who didn’t raise concerns, and then the fence starts again.
“A spite fence,” Luckman, 77, said. “They just want to send a message. It’s intimidation 101.”
Trouble with the golf course began two years ago, when the original owner closed it abruptly.
Dickie Foster, of Baymark Golf, cited financial problems as the reason in a letter to sent to golf course members in September 2019.
The Villages at West Neck was also Foster’s baby. It’s a community for ages 55 and older, designed to compliment the golf course. Its serene streets are lined with neatly-manicured lawns and ranch houses.
“The perfect place to retire,” said Joe Kuhn, 85, who has lived there for 10 years.
Luckman, a Navy veteran, moved to Gallahad Drive in 2010.
“This had it all checked off,” he said. “Most of us put what we had, life savings, and we were going to stay here until the end.”
About six months after the golf course closed, in the spring of 2020, W.C. Capital, bought it in foreclosure for $2.3 million. W.C. Capital was organized in New Mexico, but it’s unknown who owns it. The sole member is a citizen of Florida, according to Attorney John McIntyre of Norfolk, the company’s registered agent. McIntyre declined to identify the owner.
In the beginning, W.C. Capital sporadically mowed the golf course grounds, but it wasn’t as frequent as when the golf course was operating, Luckman said.
To stop troublesome weeds from spreading, Luckman and some of his neighbors mowed the edge of the golf course that backs up to their yards.
But the weeds kept growing. Mice and snakes wandered into the residents’ yards and houses. The golf course’s unkempt ponds became a breeding ground for mosquitos, Luckman said.
Luckman’s most recent property assessment dropped by tens of thousands of dollars.
But it wasn’t just money and the view that was slipping through his fingers.
The golf course was a big part of his social life. He and his neighbors played rounds on the golf course together. The Luckmans would have brunch in the clubhouse after church and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary there.
“It took the guts out of our community,” he said.
The residents rallied to try to save the golf course and formed an advisory committee. They reached out to a local, prominent developer to see if he would consider buying it. They tossed around the idea of the homeowners association stepping up, Luckman said. It would require millions of dollars just to maintain it, let alone buy it.
Over the summer, the City of Virginia Beach sued W.C. Capital for not maintaining the golf course property. A bench trial is scheduled for April 2022, according to Deputy City Attorney Christopher Boynton.
In July, W.C. Capital met with Virginia Beach’s planning staff to propose developing senior living apartments on the golf course land. It would require a change in zoning. The land is zoned for preservation. At the urging of the staff, the company has held meetings with residents to garner feedback.
At his wits end in early September, Luckman wrote a letter to W.C. Capital citing the overgrown weeds as a “private nuisance.”
McIntyre, the company’s attorney, offered a six-page response, threatening to fight back if Luckman or others “chose to initiate a lawsuit.”
“WCC has always been open to discussions with the surrounding communities regarding the future of the Property, even if only to correct the misinformation which is constantly being circulated,” McIntyre wrote in the letter to Luckman on Sept. 14.
A fence was forthcoming, McIntyre wrote: “WCC assumes it would be in both parties’ best interests to fence the dividing line between the properties.”
Luckman responded, explaining in a letter that a fence would exacerbate the problem and if built, should be in accordance with the Villages of West Neck’s community standards. Three-to-four-foot tall black aluminum picket fences are allowed.
Earlier this month, a contractor started building the solid metal fence along across Luckman’s rear property line. It stretches 165 feet across Luckman’s backyard; stops at his neighbors yard, and then starts back up again. The fence is currently bordering three homes, including Kuhn’s, who lives two doors down from Luckman.
Kuhn also wrote a letter to the company asking for the grass to be cut.
“My letters to them were, ‘Please cut the grass,’ and their response was, ‘If you don’t have a very good view, we’ll put the fence up,’” Kuhn said.
The attorney for the West Neck homeowner’s association has requested that W.C. Capital remove the fence by Nov. 4. Luckman’s not counting on it.
“This place was wonderful,” he said. “They really robbed me the joy of the view.”
Stacy Parker, 757-222-5125, firstname.lastname@example.org