What do you love most about where you live?
My wife and I chose Arizona Biltmore Estates because it's a tranquil residential neighborhood - a place with quiet streets where you can sit on your patio and enjoy the outdoors.
At least it used to be that way. In recent years, our peaceful little community has been turned upside down by a change in character of the historic Biltmore Golf Club. The ostensibly private facility and its two golf courses are now the site of frequent all-day tournaments. Hundreds of golfers show up at once and, because the Biltmore Golf Club has minimal parking, our neighborhood streets are often lined with cars - sometimes blocking driveways, parking on lawns and making it difficult for residents to leave their own homes.
The golf tournaments have turned into corporate parties. In the evening, large crowds congregate to eat, drink and celebrate. The noise echoes through the neighborhood, sometimes well into the night.
Late this summer, while many neighborhood residents were out of town, bulldozers moved in and began tearing up the 18th hole. It was then that we learned of Biltmore Golf Club's plans for a 6,000-square-foot "events pavilion" complete with flood lighting, an outdoor bar and amplified music - all just steps from the back patios of neighborhood residents.
This isn't what area residents were promised.
During the late 1990s, the previous owner of Biltmore Golf Club, Kabuto Arizona Properties, stunned neighbors when it announced plans to carve up the signature Adobe course for housing. A lengthy legal battle ensued and resulted in a compromise: Kabuto would be allowed to build condominiums on a few acres adjacent to the Adobe course. In exchange, the city rezoned the entire property to ensure the two golf courses are forever protected for their intended purpose: golf.
Not weddings, kickball tournaments, drone light shows, banquets or other special events. Just golf.
After a period of relative peace between Biltmore Golf Club and the neighborhood, things began to sour again after the property was purchased by JDM Partners a decade ago. The new ownership team, led by Jerry Colangelo, undertook an aggressive revenue strategy to maximize its new investment.
Biltmore Golf Club had always hosted the occasional golf tournament, sure. But the tournaments have become the rule rather than the exception. Non-golf activities have become more common, too. A drone light show lasted for several days, and the golf club has begun advertising that it can host weddings and similar festivities.
This summer's sudden arrival of earth-moving equipment and our discovery of JDM Partners' plan to construct an events pavilion on the property was the last straw.
This is not what area residents signed up for. Worse, we've had no say in the matter.
I'm among dozens of local residents who object to this project and have organized as a group calling itself Save Biltmore. We've asked the city of Phoenix to protect our once-quiet neighborhood and enforce the existing zoning restrictions governing Biltmore Golf Club.
The bottom line: If JDM Partners wants to construct a 6,000-square-foot events pavilion or use this property for non-golf functions, they need to go through the appropriate public process to either re-zone or get a special permit.
Arizona Biltmore Estates and the Biltmore Golf Club are iconic. It would be a true shame if all that has made this neighborhood unique and special were lost in the name of development.
Mike Ahearn is the founder, chairman and former CEO of First Solar. He and his wife, Gayle, live in Arizona Biltmore Estates.
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Save Biltmore is brought to you by the Arizona Biltmore Neighborhood Association.