By Matt Wiley
After more than a decade of operating its golf course while unable to make payments on the bonds that first built it, the Heritage Isles Community Development District (CDD) has settled much of its looming debt with its creditors and is looking toward the future.
Residents of the community, located off Cross Creek Blvd., can breathe a little easier knowing that they will not be held accountable for the defaulted CDD debt. The District has been unable to make payments since 2009.
In a recent press release, the CDD notified residents about the retirement of 82-percent of the golf course’s bonds, or more than $3 million, that the District owed to bondholders, a group of individuals and institutions that took out bonds to invest in the golf course. Facing legal action from the bondholders, who demanded that the District assess Heritage Isles residents to pay for the outstanding debt, the CDD filed suit in Hillsborough County court to settle some of the debt and to protect homeowners from having to help make payments on the bonds.
“The Board of Supervisors for the District has labored for quite some time to settle the debt that was basically given to them by the original developer,” says Heritage Isles CDD district manager Jim Hayford. “Having significantly reduced the debt that the District owes will allow us to start dealing with other issues in the District and providing additional services for our residents.”
Originally, the Heritage Isles CDD bonded more than $8 million in 1999 to pay for the 18-hole semi-private golf course around which many of the community’s homes are built.
The release says that the court ruled in Heritage Isles’ favor and the bondholders offered to sell their bonds back to the District for 25 cents on the dollar, or about a 75-percent discount, eliminating $3.115 million of the District’s debt. The remainder of the debt will be covered by revenue generated by the golf course and its accompanying restaurant, the Back Nine Café.
“The majority of residents understand and are pleased (with the outcome),” Hayford says.
Hayford also explains that, although the District could not afford to make the payments on the golf course, it never was in danger of closing.
“It would have almost been more expensive to close the course,” he says, explaining that maintenance still would have to be done on the course since residents’ homes back up to it, almost like a giant backyard.
As far as the future is concerned, Hayford says that Heritage Isles residents can expect to see some positive changes in the coming months, such as, possibly, a resurfaced pool, pool deck and parking lot, but that no plans have yet been finalized.
“No decisions have yet been made,” he explains. “We’re still in the initial phases, but we should have some plans in the next month or two. We have to find out what residents want moving forward.”
For more information about Heritage Isles Country Club, please visit HeritageIslesGolf.com.