WINONA LAKE — At a lengthy Winona Lake Plan Commission meeting held Tuesday, Dec. 4, the first item on the agenda was a presentation by Kirti Shah, owner of Stonehenge Golf Club, and his attorney, Elden Stoops.
“Right now we want to sort of have an information session and get some input,” said Stoops, explaining that Shah has had the property on the market for almost two years.
Shah, who took over the property in 2007, stated he has had no offers related to purchase of the property. Stoops expressed the belief that the golf course has lost money every year since it was founded in 1988. According to Shah, he has been investing $350,000 each year for ten years into the property.
“I’m getting to an age where I can’t afford this kind of money,” Shah said. “I’m too old, too tired and running out of cash.”
Stoops stated that the number one option would be for the property to continue running as a golf course. “It’s been for sale for a long time and there have been no offers. This leaves us with what do we do next,” said Stoops.
One option presented involves turning a portion of the property into a medical facility similar to one that Shah is currently involved with.
“Kirti is part owner of a medical operation in Florida. This is a facility for expectant mothers who are addicted and is for professionals for the most part because only professionals can afford it,” said Stoops. Stoops described the facility as an upscale, luxury, resort-style treatment center.
This project would involve only 20 percent of the Stonehenge Golf Club property. Other options include developing portions of the property for housing and checking to see if existing homeowners would have an interest in purchasing additional property to expand their lots.
“I think the important thing here is to get the community’s input, especially the Stonehenge community,” said Plan Commissioner Jill Serbousek.
“I think there are groups out there that are just trying to decide what they want to do. I think they are interested in purchasing it. I don’t know that they necessarily want to purchase it for a golf course,” said Town Coordinator Craig Allebach. “What I would like to offer is to go back to these groups that I know are talking and have an interest.”
“I think by you coming in here tonight, the community… these groups need to step up to the plate and step up pretty quickly,” Allebach added.
The plan commission agreed that the issue should be addressed with the Board of Zoning Appeals in February or March.
Following the presentation by Stoops and Shah, commission members reviewed the first draft of a rental property regulation ordinance. The ordinance included issues such as inspections, parking and registration fees.
According to Building Commissioner Gene Seiman, the town has approximately 250 properties designated as rental properties, totaling 1,450 individual rental units.
Plan Commission member Jerry Nelson began with a prepared statement that read, in part, “It is very apparent that there is a rush to establish this ordinance. It’s obvious that the goal is to relegate renters to second-class citizens in the town of Winona Lake.”
“I would remind you that this plan commission and especially the BZA has been addressing these issues for several years,” said Commission President Dave Turner. “This is not new.”
“It’s offensive that you would say that about us,” Turner added, with several commission members verbalizing agreement.
Nelson stated he felt it was unfair that private homes are not addressed in the ordinance.
“Basically what this ordinance does is talk about the renter only and not the property owners in Winona Lake who have run down properties,”
“It’s a rental ordinance,” Serbousek pointed out. “We have other ordinances that deal with those properties.”
The plan commission agreed to readdress the ordinance at their next meeting.