A wealthy businessman who gave Scottsdale the land for the Coronado Golf Course said deed restrictions would prohibit the city from transforming the course into a baseball complex for the San Francisco Giants.
Paradise Valley resident H.S. Galbraith, vice president of Foxworth-Galbraith Lumber Co., placed constraints on the land in the 1970s that require it to be used only for “open space, park, golf course or playground purposes” for a period of 45 years, according to copies of the deeds.
Galbraith told the Tribune in an interview Tuesday that he is “neither a golfer nor a baseball fan,” so he has no ax to grind with the city. His only request is that the city follow the deed restrictions, which he believes would prohibit the development of the proposed $18 million baseball training facility at Miller and Thomas roads, near the Indian Bend Wash.
“It was my intention that the golf course land would be free of buildings or other improvements, for the benefit of the public,” Galbraith wrote in a letter Monday given to the city.
Galbraith, who deeded 78 acres to the city in the late 1970s, said that at that time, it was city officials who suggested Galbraith place the restrictions on the land so that it would always be used as open space or for public recreation.
Scottsdale officials said they are still reviewing the deed restrictions, which were brought to light during a public meeting Monday by real estate broker Eric Planeta, who owns eight acres adjacent to the golf course. Planeta is against the city’s proposal to build a baseball facility. The city would need Planeta’s land to build the facility.
“We haven’t finished analyzing the deed restriction yet, but believe it probably can be met with operational changes if we need to make them,” said interim City Attorney Brad Woodford.
Those “operational changes” could mean the city would open up part of the facility to public use, he said.
The way Woodford reads the deed restrictions, they would not prohibit the city from putting some buildings on the land.
“Obviously that does not mean no buildings or structures because there is one there, and it has been there for many years,” Woodford said of the course’s clubhouse, which is owned by Planeta.
Lisa Collins, Scottsdale’s customer service and communication director, said the city can meet “public use” requirements, even though the facility would be controlled by the Giants and closed to general public use. She pointed to other developments along the Indian Bend Wash.
But critics of the proposal said the deed restrictions give a boost to their cause.
“It’s the wrong spot, and it’s not a viable location,” Planeta said. “It’s just sad (the city) didn’t look at the legal issues.”
The City Council voted unanimously Monday to award a $195,000 contract to a design firm, which will sketch out preliminary designs for a baseball complex. The contract was awarded over the objections of dozens of golfers and area residents.
The designs will be unveiled in the spring, at which time the council could vote on whether to build the baseball facility in place of the golf course.
The city wants to transform the 44-acre golf course and driving range into a facility that would include a clubhouse, two full-size playing fields, a practice infield, an observation tower and specialized training areas.
Meanwhile, Planeta said the baseball complex also would violate the guidelines of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. That fund contributed to the development of the Indian Bend Wash, where the golf course sits today.
A copy of the lease between the city and the operator of the golf course states that the land must be operated in a manner consistent with the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which specifically prohibits sports facilities from being built in those areas.
City officials, however, have said that the restrictions don’t apply because the golf course was deeded by a private owner.