Three years after buying The Bluffs Golf Resort in St. Francisville with ambitious redevelopment plans, the two families that own the properties are in a dispute over what to do with them.
One of the owners, an LLC owned by Richard “Jerry” Dodson, filed a motion in late August in court to dissolve the ownership group and liquidate the assets, claiming the two sides were “deadlocked” on how to proceed. The other owner, the family of the late Ken Carter, is objecting to the move.
Meanwhile, a group of property owners and other members of The Bluffs are interested in buying the course. At the time of Carter’s death of a stroke this summer, an exploratory committee that was formed earlier this year had made a preliminary buyout offer. That deal would have seen the course sold off over 30 years to a community nonprofit, or similar structure, composed of homeowners and other Bluffs members.
“It was not generating enough money for Mr. Carter and me to keep subsidizing it,” said Dodson, who added the course likely would have closed if the owners could not find a buyer.
Carter and Dodson, local attorneys, bought the Arnold Palmer-designed Bluffs course and several adjacent tracts of land in 2015. At the time, the two laid out several potential developments, including a retirement village, conference center, lodging and other amenities.
Since May, however, the two had been negotiating to sell the properties to a group of Bluffs property owners and other members. Rob Field, who sits on the exploratory committee, said the group is still interested in buying the course if the dispute among owners is resolved.
“If the golf course closes, it will impact property values significantly,” Field said. “We’ve done a lot of work to put together a process … to keep it open.”
Field added the cost to buy the course is not “astronomically high,” and residents would have the ability to vote on whether to move forward. The deal would likely involve residents paying higher dues.
Dodson said he hopes to reach an amicable solution with Carter’s family. He added that he and Carter would likely have closed The Bluffs if the two could not find an exit strategy.
“The Bluffs has always been a financial challenge,” he said. “For it to succeed, they need the community to keep it open.”
After Carter had a stroke and died this summer, Dodson filed a motion in court in late August seeking to dissolve the ownership company, Bluffs Renaissance LLC, saying he and Carter’s family were “deadlocked” on how to proceed. Dodson also asked a judge to liquidate the properties, and a judge appointed a liquidator to administer the proceedings.
Carter’s family filed a motion earlier this month seeking to vacate the judge’s orders, claiming Dodson did not follow the proper procedure in filing for a “voluntary” liquidation of the assets and dissolution of the company.
“The owners need to discuss all the options on how to proceed and make a decision based on what’s best for the company,” said attorney Daniel Davillier, of Davillier Law Group, who represents the Carter family.
According to documents filed with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office, State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson is a manager of BDAGG Renaissance LLC, which owns half of The Bluffs, along with Dodson’s firm.
Davillier said his client has not made any decisions on what to do with The Bluffs Golf Resort and other properties, and simply wants to go through a proper process in dealing with the issue.
“(Carter) was instrumental in the agreement we had reached,” Dodson said, calling Carter a “dear friend.”
“With his loss the families had different views and deadlocked on how to proceed.”
A court hearing is set for Sept. 24 in St. Francisville on the matter.
A sale to the property owners would likely include the clubhouse, golf house and other facilities at the site, but not several other tracts of adjacent land owned by Carter and Dodson’s firms. The two also bought 29 condominium units and renovated them, Dodson said.
Dodson also had envisioned a 121-lot planned unit development on a nearby tract of land, and that project is currently on hold. Carter was developing a smaller subdivision near the course.
All properties owned by Bluffs Renaissance LLC are subject to the liquidation proceedings.
“There’s nothing but brighter days ahead for The Bluffs,” Dodson said.