Golf course takes a tricky financial shot

A troubled Southside golf course has made another move to get out of the rough.

River’s Bend Golf Club last week received court approval to be released from its Chapter 11 bankruptcy case, allowing its owner to pursue a land conservation plan that could help stabilize its finances.

River’s Bend Golf Club hugs the banks of the James.

But although the dismissal gives River’s Bend owner Ronnie Kelley what he asked for, leaving the protection of Chapter 11 is a risky play.

Chesterfield County is still waiting to collect on years of unpaid property taxes owed by the 117-acre riverfront course. The county’s attempt to have the Chester course sold in a tax auction prompted Kelley to put River’s Bend in bankruptcy in September.

Chapter 11 kept the creditor at bay, and the removal of that buffer leaves the county free to again pursue its tax auction.

Attorney Jim Kane, who has represented River’s Bend LLC in its bankruptcy case, said in an email that his client’s discussions with the county have been ongoing for several months.

“Hopefully they will come to some agreement soon,” he said.

As the taxes still haven’t been paid, Jim Elliott, the attorney hired by Chesterfield County to pursue the tax sale process, said he’s been instructed by the county to put the property back up for sale.

An auction date has not been determined, he said.

Read the bankruptcy filing

Read the bankruptcy filing [PDF]

The county’s tax lien takes precedence over all other creditors, including the holder of the loan on the property, Amherst Lending LLC.

Bill Baldwin, an attorney with Marchant, Thorsen, Honey, Baldwin & Meyer representing Amherst, would not comment on the case.

Kelley’s plan for River’s Bend would allow him to continue to own the property as a golf course while donating a conservation easement on the land. The property could then be eligible for tax credits that could be sold to get current with the course’s creditors. A conservation easement would preserve the property, protecting it in perpetuity from future development. The property’s current zoning could allow for residential development.

The course sits along the James River across from the Henricus Island historical site. That location gives it plenty of potential for conservation.

Kain said the plan is a way to “monetize the significant open space and conservation values of the property.”

“The scenic importance of the property from Henricus Island and the water quality and environmental considerations of the site have been of great interest to a variety of conservation organizations,” he said.

Kelley said in an email last week that he’s attempting to move forward with the conservation easement project and has other plans for the course.

“We are now moving forward with a new membership drive, and course renovation project that will start early spring,” he said.

Kelley, a local golf veteran who’s owned several Central Virginia courses over the years, lost his other local golf course, Prince George Golf Club, to foreclosure in November.

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