Mediterra members reach agreement with Bonita Bay Group to buy golf club

— Rich Schmidt acted Friday like he’d hit a hole-in-one.

The chairman of the Mediterra Advisory Board announced that a deal finally had been struck for members to buy their golf club from the financially strapped Bonita Bay Group.

“It’s a good day,” he said.

The agreement comes after months of negotiations that at times looked as if they were dead.

Members have agreed to buy the club and its assets for $6.8 million cash and to assume $15 million in debt for a Community Development District that helped pay for roads, sewer hookups and other shared needs as Mediterra got off the ground.

Ninety-five percent of the current members _ or more than 470 residents _ have agreed to join the new club. Another 150 residents, who aren’t members, will become either golf, sports or social members.

Social memberships will be a new, less-expensive offering at the member-owned club. Annual fees will range from $1,900 to $2,900.

“They will have dining privileges and limited beach access in the offseason,” Schmidt explained.

The cost for golf and sports memberships will remain about the same, he said.

“The support that we’ve gotten from our membership, it’s just unbelievable,” Schmidt said. “It shows that people are committed to the community and love the lifestyle.”

As part of their agreement to join the new club, current members have waived their right to deposits they gave to Bonita Bay Group. At one time, the developer would refund deposits within 30 days to resigning members. The developer no longer is honoring that policy as it fights to stay out of bankruptcy.

The liability of all those deposits now is estimated at $62 million. Only 5 percent of that liability will stay with the Bonita Bay Group as part of the negotiated agreement with Mediterra members.

There will be a refund policy for deposits at the new club, but it will be much more restrictive than the one originally offered by the developer, Schmidt said.

For months, Bonita Bay Group has been negotiating to sell off all its recreational clubs to its members. No other agreements have been reached, though talks continue in at least a few of its other communities.

The agreement should put the new Mediterra club on firm financial footing and help restore the community’s reputation, which has been damaged by the negotiations, Schmidt said.

At times, negotiations have pitted neighbor against neighbor.

The sale includes two Tom Fazio-designed championship golf courses, a 1,800-square-foot golf academy, a 25,000-square-foot clubhouse and a sports club with tennis courts, an outdoor pool, three spa rooms and a recently expanded fitness center.

Under the agreement, members also would own the private Mediterra beach club on the Gulf of Mexico, which offers a swimming pool, sundeck and dining overlooking 200 feet of shoreline.

“Today’s agreement represents a significant step toward resolving the financial challenges facing our company due to the global economic crisis and the dramatic downturn in the Southwest Florida real estate market,” said David Lucas, chairman of Bonita Bay Group, in a statement. “We sincerely appreciate the dedicated and professional leadership of the Mediterra Members’ Advisory Board throughout this process and hope to be successful working with the members of other clubs to achieve the best possible resolution to the mutual challenges we face.”

Mediterra, a 1,697-acre community, has been named Community of the Year by the Collier Building Industry Association five times. It straddles the Lee-Collier line off Livingston Road.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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