The New Hampshire Supreme Court will hear arguments next week in a case that could determine the future of Carter Country Club, the historic nine-hole Mechanic Street golf course in Lebanon.
Judges are urged to decide whether New London developer Doug Homan owns the property – and is therefore free to make changes or remove the course, as a Superior Court judge ruled last year – or if the protections provided more than three decades ago are still enforceable.
The nonprofit Carter Community Building Association claims it owns the rights to a 1986 deposit that could be used to prevent redevelopment of the golf course for housing.
These rights arise from a sales agreement between the late Meriden developer Edmond “Peanie” Goodwin and developer Fred Fish.
Built in 1923, the course was designed by Donald Ross, a renowned golf course architect, and is his only nine-hole course in New Hampshire, according to the club’s website.
Goodwin, who sold the 47-acre golf course after attempting to develop adjacent land, sought to preserve the course and stipulated in the 1986 agreement that “at all times, in perpetuity, a golf course of nine holes must be maintained and operated on site. “
If a golf course was not available for more than a year, the title was supposed to revert to the nonprofit Carter Country Club Inc., which then transferred its rights to the CCBA and dissolved. .
“The language of the act creates an interest of reversion. It says it all in black and white, ”wrote Hanover lawyer Jeremy Eggleton, who represents the CCBA, in a brief to the Supreme Court.
Eggleton is appealing two decisions rendered by Grafton Superior Court Judge Lawrence MacLeod last year.
First, MacLeod concluded that the transfer between the former Carter Country Club Inc. and the CCBA was invalid. He then reigned last May that Homan, who bought the golf course in 1990, rightly inherited the protections.
In his submissions, Eggleton argues that the two court orders go against the intent of the lawyers, shareholders and nonprofits that negotiated the golf course protections, citing affidavits from those involved in the the talks.
He also says the CCBA should be allowed to enforce protection. It was chosen by Goodwin and the shareholders to protect the golf course because of its “recreational purpose which would not be tempted, as the City might do, to convert recreational properties for tax, residential or economic purposes”.
Concord attorney Samantha Elliott, who represents Homan, argues in the documents that the protections cannot be classified as a reverter and instead constitute a right of re-entry. The distinction between the two is that the holder of a right of re-entry can choose to take control of a property after a breach of an agreement, while the holder of a reverter does not have that choice.
A re-entry fee is also often non-transferable, unlike a reverter, Elliott wrote.
She goes on to say that a 1991 court case has already deprived former shareholders of any interest in the property and warns that the case would have a major impact on Homan’s business interests.
If the judges side with the CCBA, “Carter, a private entity, cannot use a large expanse of land for anything other than a nine-hole golf course and cannot sell the land for any other use. She said. “There is no corresponding public interest.”
Homan, the owner of Lake Sunapee Country Club, has indicated on several occasions that he hopes to develop the golf course and surrounding properties for housing.
For three and a half years, Homan applied to the Town Planning Council for permission to build a subdivision of 306 houses upstream from Mechanic Street.
He never obtained the approval of the Town Planning Council for this subdivision plan, which would have moved the golf course.
Homan then presented in 2018 a new proposal of 186 senior housing units, 400 apartments, a 300-seat restaurant and 60,000 square feet of retail space. This project was never formally submitted to the city.
The Supreme Court will hear the pleadings in the case at 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 27.
Two judges with ties to the Upper Valley recused themselves, according to the court’s hearing schedule. Chief Justice Gordon MacDonald, a native of Hanover who graduated from Dartmouth College in 1983, and James Bassett, also a Dartmouth graduate, will not hear the case.