Fore! Trump golf course faces hazards
Donald Trump is aiming for a hole-in-one with reported plans to build a public golf course on the former Kluge estate in southern Albemarle, but several hazards stand in his way. For one, the 217-acre would-be golf course in the front yard of Albemarle House is under conservation easement– and it's also under litigation from the John Kluge Jr. Trust, which claims Trump stiffed it on the purchase price.
According to Golf magazine, Trump hired noted golf course architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw to draw up plans for the course on the lawn in front of Patricia Kluge's former 45-room abode, which Trump bought for $6.5 million last year. He also purchased Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard in 2010 for $6.21 million, and has since stamped the Trump brand on that.
Plans for the course are preliminary, and Golf adds a strange detail that would be pretty much unheard of in Albemarle County– that permitting and approvals are "expected to move quickly."
And there's no mention of the conservation easement, which Patricia Kluge, as trustee of the John Kluge Jr. Trust, signed onto in 2006. The 217-acre parcel is beside another 745 acres held by Trump Vineyard Estates, also under conservation easement to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.
"At this time, we haven't received any formal notification from the owner on what they may or may not do," says Brian Fuller, assistant director of stewardship for Virginia Outdoors Foundation.
However, in 2011, after Trump purchased the parcel, VOF sent a letter that noted its disagreement with Trump general counsel Jason Greenblatt and said the easement "does not reserve an 'absolute right' to build a seasonal, commercial golf course on the property." VOF's Tracy Campbell told Greenblatt that it was VOF policy to not take easements on properties that would be used as commercial golf courses.
The easement prohibits any commercial activity unless it's farming related, such as vitaculture. Seasonal outdoor activities that don't permanently alter the physical appearance of the property are allowed.
Another obstacle to creating links on the property: Grading, blasting, and mining are forbidden, except to construct a dam for ponds or for permitted structures or private roads.
The easement also allows grading to re-naturalize areas previously used for recreation. When John and Patricia Kluge built Albemarle House, they constructed an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course. That "was dug up before the easement," says Middleburg attorney Ed McMahon, who represents the John Kluge Jr. Trust in its suit against Trump Virginia.
Ah yes, the lawsuit. McMahon says that doesn't stop Trump from building on property he currently owns. "It's still his property unless the trust wins," says McMahon. "Then it'll be improved."
Billionaire John Kluge put the front yard of Albemarle House into a trust for his son in 2000. When Donald Trump was attempting to acquire the foreclosed-upon mansion from Bank of America, he approached the John Kluge Jr. Trust, offered $150K for the land and another $350,000 if the house sold within two years, according to the suit.
Trump bought the house but didn't make the additional payment for the land, and the lawsuit contends that the Trumps "never intended to perform the obligation to pay additional consideration as required..."
As for the conservation easement, McMahon offers, "When the trust gave the land to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, it certainly wasn't the intention of the grantors that a commercial golf course be built there."
Eric Trump did not return phone calls from the Hook. However, he reportedly told Golf that the golf course architects who had toured the property "all unanimously came back and said this could be one of the best golf courses in the country or in the world." He also touted its location down the road from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.
The land is zoned RA– rural– which means there would be one more hazard to avoid to put in a public or private golf course. According to zoning administrator Amelia McCulley, such a recreational effort would require a special use permit from the Board of Supervisors.Attached Documents: