As Chestnut Ridge County Club inches closer to its Nov. 20 closing, lawyers are preparing to argue about 20 cases moved to Baltimore County Circuit Court under one civil suit regarding unpaid dues.
Dozens of members, who are listed as defendants in the civil suits, left the club in April. Those former members, represented by Timonium-based attorney Alan Bloom, argue that they should not have to pay the assessments that range between $800 and $2,000, adding that additional fees are partly why they left in the first place.
Bloom currently represents 12 former members, although he said he expects to take on more clients. The charges that Chestnut Ridge expects to collect is “not proper under the circumstances," Bloom said.
Bloom, a former member himself, said the club approved additional assessments after the ex-members turned in resignations on May 1. Members who left also were not allowed to vote on a special assessment after their departure, according to Bloom.
Jeffrey Friedman, a Reisterstown-based collections attorney representing Chestnut Ridge, contended that the debts were accumulated prior to April 30, 2011.
“The suits are the attempt to collect the assessment that wasn’t paid by the members,” said Friedman, who is also a member of the country club.
Bloom said that it was unwise for the country club to have continued operating in recents months.
“The club was doomed,” Bloom said. “The financial situation was poor. Instead of continuing the club they should’ve closed it (in May),” Bloom said of the exodus of members.
“The bylaws say that if you’re going to have an assessment based on a deficit you have to have the assessment and actually levy it prior to people leaving,” he continued. “They continued to run the club until November for the benefit of a minority of people who stayed and wanted us to pay the tab for it.”
Court records show (see PDF files) that the motion to move the 20 or so cases from district court to Circuit Court has been approved. Instead of the cases being heard individually, Bloom will argue one case on behalf of all the defendants.
Friedman said he was unsure how the club’s closing will affect the cases, although he is hopeful that club could remain operational with the right backer.
“It is a real shame if for some reason something doesn’t happen to keep the golf club and course active and usable for the community,” Friedman said. “Hopefully, someone will see an opportunity here and make some financial decisions, which will allow the club to move forward. Nothing is written in stone yet. … We can only hope.”
A letter was sent to members last Thursday informing them that the club would be closing. The letter, which was obtained by Patch Monday, outlines the club’s financial difficulties in the wake of the economic downturn, as well as its efforts to continue operations. (See the full letter below)
A representative of Chestnut Ridge has not returned calls seeking comment.
The remaining club members will meet on Nov. 21 to vote on “the dissolution and liquidation of the Club,” the according to the notice.
To: Members of Chestnut Ridge Country Club
From: Herb Weiner, President
As you know, in the last few years the downturn in the economy, changing demographics and demand with respect to the game of golf, the intense competition among country clubs in our area, the requirement to service certain debt incurred by the Club in past years to improve and expand our facilities, and a decline in the Club's membership base have made it very challenging to continue to operate the Club as the quality club it has been for decades.
During the past year, the Board has made numerous attempts to address these challenges. We have presented restructuring plans to the Bank, modified the membership plans and the assessment obligation to retain members, engaged a professional golf course management company to assist in the operation of the Club and the recruitment of members, sought counsel from financial and legal advisors, conducted discussions with other clubs about the possibility of a merger, attempted to negotiate additional funds from the bank to fund the off season deficit, and presented a Funding Members program to the membership which would, if successful , have allowed the Club to remain open until next spring in anticipation of increased members and/or public play to generate the needed increase in revenues.
Despite these significant efforts and the good intentions of those Members who were willing to participate in the Funding Member program and those Members who remain with the Club at this time, the Board of Directors has reviewed the current financial condition of the Club and has concluded that there are not and will not be sufficient funds to continue the operation of the Club. As a result of this review, at last night's Board meeting, the Board decided to cease operations as of the close of business on Sunday November 20th.
In the next week the Board and the Club's officers will be addressing the myriad practical, business, legal and other issues that arise in an unfortunate situation like this, and will be doing our best to implement this plan in an orderly , respectful and dignified manner. We ask for your understanding and cooperation as the Club goes through this process. The November dues bill has been sent to Members and there will be an additional final bill sent to members for any charges by Members, e.g food and beverage, from November 1 through November 20th. We urge all Members to honor their obligations for November.
Finally, this letter serves as Notice of a Special Meeting of the Members to be held at 7 pm on Monday November 21 at the Club to vote on the dissolution and liquidation of the Club.