Standing-room-only crowd of Villagers speaks out on future of Hacienda Hills

A standing-room-only crowd of Villagers packed Savannah Center on Wednesday morning to speak out on the future of Hacienda Hills Country Club.

The Amenity Authority Committee, which heard from Villagers lined up at the podium, has the “opportunity” to take ownership of the facility. Last month, it was revealed that the Developer has offered to transfer the facility to the AAC. The Developer will hang on to the championship golf course.

Hacienda Hills Country Club

Hacienda Hills was not on the agenda, but that mattered little to the Villagers who showed up to speak out.

“Absolutely no decision has been made, for or against,” said AAC Chair Ann Forrester.

Residents pointed out that restaurants at Silver Lake, Chula Vista and El Santiago have in years past been abandoned by the Developer and converted to recreation centers at residents’ expense.

Village of Chatham resident John Chipriano was among the majority who said they want a restaurant at Hacienda Hills. Hacienda Hills Country Club, dogged by a recent forced closure by a health inspector and a reputation for lousy food and poor service, last month closed its doors.

Chipriano said there are businessmen in The Villages who know how to run a restaurant and pointed to the success of the Suleiman family and Fred Karimipour.

“The best outcome for this property is for the Developer to prepare the restaurant as a suitable restaurant to be operated by a proven restaurant operator,” Chipriano said.

The priority pool at the Hacienda Country Club could be part of a transfer to the Amenity Authority Committee.

He pointed out that the AAC dodged a bullet when it was offered Church on the Square and the Tierra Del Sol restaurant. Church on the Square was converted to the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center. Tierra Del Sol is now home to the Studio Theater and an adjacent bar and grill. Both of those conversions have been very successful, Chipriano said.

Another resident waved a decades old advertisement which promised that Villagers would “enjoy free country club living for the rest of your life.”

Hacienda Hills Country Club

The name of Villages founder Harold Schwartz was invoked more than once.

Villager Bill Garner called on the AAC to “honor these people who want to maintain the restaurant.”

He reminded AAC members that the body had been formed as the result of a lawsuit that delivered a $50 million settlement from the Developer. He hinted another lawsuit could come in the future.

Villager Patsy Oburn promised that the group would not back down.

“We are not going to just sit by and watch this happen. We are mobilized, we are connected and we will be back,” she said.