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SHIP (Sterling Hills Improvement Project) Questions & Answers

Following are comments and answers from the Zaruka family that were generated from community meetings held in late November. There were over 100 questions, several of which were generally the same. We categorized them and attempted to answer them directly and with transparency. We will soon pick a development partner who will be guided by these answers. Your continued involvement and participation will be sought out by the developer. Thanks for your involvement and interest in our SHIP project.

  1. Why did we buy the golf course and why do you need to sell off the land?
    • Our family has established deep roots in the West County. Our primary business at Sterling Hills was threatened if we did not buy the course. We believe that pubic golf in Camarillo was also threatened because any other buyer would not invest in the course and likely want to develop much more than our SHIP plan. We wanted to preserve championship public golf in our community.
    • We chose the small development action as the vehicle for creating a sustainable golf business. Sterling Hills is 220 acres compared to 89 acres at Buenaventura and 130 acres at Olivas. Water restrictions prevent us from properly watering the whole course, hence the barren sides of the course. A thinner, more playable, debt free course will create a sustainable business environment.
  2. How does the SHIP proposal protect property values?
    • How do we know you will deliver on the improvements to the course?
      • The Zaruka family has 20+ years as Camarillo residents and have made substantial investments in this community. We have contributed or efforts to raise millions to various community organizations. We are here for the long haul. This is our home. Further, all plans will be fully vetted by the City of Camarillo during a year’s long planning process that will require we fulfill all our commitments. These will be legally binding commitments placed on any possible development of the property. We believe in the long-term future of Sterling Hills – that is exactly why we are working to ensure it is financially stable for decades to come.
    • Property Values will be enhanced because:
      • The golf course will be much more visibly appealing giving homeowner’s better backyard views.
      • By offering many existing homeowners access to more land.
    • The developing new residential units with likely be priced higher than some existing units.
      • The marketing of the new homes will bring buyers to the existing homes at Sterling Hills as well.
    • What happens if the golf course fails?
      • If we are not able to secure money to invest in the golf course, we may have to sell or close the course. Any other operator will face the same financial challenges and may have other plans to redevelop the entire property.
    • How can we be sure you won’t develop more of the property in the future?
      • The SHIP proposal results in a highly limited redevelopment area – approximately 20% of the property could be developed with new homes. The remaining 80% of the land will continue to operate as an 18-hole, championship golf course. We will place a permanent deed restriction or similar legal document to assure prevention legally of any future development.
    • How will you guarantee improvements at the golf course?
      • The improvements planned will be a part of the project and will be required by the City of Camarillo. These are legally binding commitments. As local Camarillo residents and long-time business owners, we view this project as a legacy for our family and will do everything we can to make sure it is successful. We have already contracted renowned golf course architect, Forrest Richardson, to design the improvements to the course. His many course credits include the recent renovations of Olivas Park and Buenaventura.
    • What about fire safety?
      • Any proposed project will be subject to the California Environmental Quality Act. This will result in the preparation of a report that will study over 20 different topics – including fire safety, traffic, water and much more. Evacuations and fire safety will be comprehensively addressed in the environmental impact report prepared for any redevelopment project.
  3. How can you guarantee that you’ll do what you say you will?
    • The Zaruka’s have a well-earned ethical business reputation. We say what we will do and then do it. Their entrepreneurial skill has been recognized with numerous awards, both from their business application and their charitable contributions to our community.
    • What’s the business plan or the golf course after project implementation?
      • In addition to securing funds to invest in renovating and creating a championship 18 hole golf course, The SHIP project will allow us to eliminate debt on the golf course. This ensures that the golf course will be financially sustainable. The Zaruka family will continue to manage and operate the course and banquet facility as a community amenity. We will continue to market a high value golf experience to a broad section of the golf community.
    • What makes you think these improvements are going to help the situation despite the national trend?
      • Having operated Sterling Hills for the past several years, and with 30+ years in the golf business, we recognize the uniqueness of this property. It is a special place. We know that with needed investments in the course, elimination of debt and continued growth of our successful banquet and wedding business we can ensure the long-term viability of golf at Sterling Hills for generations to come.
    • Financial accountability between Zaruka and HOA? Will you share financials after improvements/new homes?
      • The HOA will not be financially responsible for any improvements, ongoing operations or maintenance of the course. All costs will be borne by the developer and the Zaruka family.
    • How much financial infusion will the course get?
      • We believe the proposed SHIP project will provide sufficient cash to make needed improvements to the golf course, eliminate debt and grow our wedding business – making the golf course financially sustainable for the long term. Estimate between $1.5 and $2.0 million. Our commitment is to invest whatever income comes from the development into paying off the debt and improving the golf course. We will earn zero from this transaction, only the chance to make a modest income from course operations after the plan completion.
    • Can you guarantee the course will remain open in perpetuity?
      • While we cannot predict the future of the golf industry, after 30+ years in the golf business, we know that with the proposed improvements, we are confident that the golf course will thrive for decades to come.
  4. Community/Neighboring resident benefits
    • Likely result in reduced HOA costs due to elimination of certain maintenance?
      • Yes, we believe that HOA costs can go down if the developer agrees to assume some maintenance obligations. Guaranteeing community benefits will be a part of any development agreement we sign with a developer partner. We will taking a survey of your benefit choices via email and on our web site.
    • Granting neighboring residents more land along the edges?
      • Like lowering HOA maintenance responsibilities, this is something we will explore with our development partner. We believe there may be opportunities to grant land to existing residents as a community benefit.
    • Golf course to take on maintenance landscape along the community edges?
      • We would consider deeding the entrances to the HOA. The golf course will be able to take care of the areas around the course better if the course is “thinned” out.
    • Traffic?
      • Inside the gate is the HOA responsibility, but we can ask the developer to update the gate system. The new homes will only be on and off from Beardsley before either of the existing gates. Traffic planning is part of the requirements for the City
  5. What’s next?/What’s the process?
    • What has been done to date?
      • To date, we have met with hundreds of our neighbors to talk about the SHIP proposal and process. We will continue engaging with the neighborhood to talk about the plans. The next step will be to find a development partner that is committed to listening and engaging with the community, has a history in Ventura County and golf course projects who will share our vision for a revitalized Sterling Hills.
    • Where are the discussion with the city?
      • We had very preliminary discussions with planning department to determine basic feasibility of the project. After a development partner is selected, they will work with the neighborhood to put together a refined plan and submit the required applications to the City of Camarillo. No application has been submitted to date.
    • What happens if city does not approve?
      • If the proposed project cannot meet all City and State development and environmental requirements, the project cannot move forward.
    • Will there be a steering committee of residents?
      • It is extremely important to our family that any development partner continue robust and ongoing outreach to the community. We want your feedback to guide our planning. We have formed a SHIP steering committee and will continue to hold regular meetings and updates.
    • When could course improvements begin?
      • The planning process at the City of Camarillo is long and detailed. The environmental report that will be prepared is typically 2,000 to 3,000 pages long. This will likely take 18 – 24 months. Construction will not begin for 2 years or more. The golf course improvements will go first followed by the home construction. In the meantime we will work through the legal hurdles to provide many homeowners an easement for bigger backyards.
  6. What is the SHIP Plan?
    • We want to provide a newly renovated and designed golf course, better than the current one that will appeal to a wider range of the golf market at a reasonable price point.
    • How many homes?
      • The SHIP proposes to redevelop approximately 20% of the Sterling Hills property with new homes. The remaining 80% of the property will continue to be an 18-hole, championship golf course. Within the highly limited residential redevelopment area, the number of new homes will vary based on type and density.
    • Where will the homes be located?
      • The large majority of the new homes will be located along the northern edge of the property adjacent to Beardsley Road in order to be farthest away from existing residents and minimize impacts to Sterling Hills Drive and other local streets. The area at the beginning of number 4 will be considered as well as some small other parts of the course with open space adjacent to the road.
    • What will the homes look like?
      • All of the architecture, size and home type will be determined by developer in close consultation with the steering committee and City of Camarillo. As part of our development agreement, residents will provide feedback about the design and architecture. The homes will be similar to other houses in the neighborhood today.
    • Is low income housing being proposed?
      • No. Low income housing is not a part of the SHIP proposal.
    • Limiting noise level of banquet operations?
      • Yes, amplified music is currently limited by city regulations. The F&B department has strict guidelines that limit noise. Part of the course remodel may offer the opportunity to relocate the wedding site which may further limit noise from the clubhouse.
    • Who will be buying these homes? Who is the target buyer?
      • Sterling Hills is a luxury community and these new homes will welcome buyers looking for a wonderful gated community of high-end homes.
    • Will the new homes be gated?
      • Yes, the new homes may be located in a gated portion of our community. No decisions have been made at this time. However, access to the new homes will be provided from Beardsley. No new homeowners will be driving through the existing community.
    • Will there be a new HOA?
      • The new homes may have a new sub-association. At this time, the proposal is to have these new homes join the existing Master HOA in order to help drive down costs for all existing residents.
  7. Rationale for location of development area
    • Why along Beardsley?
      • This area was identified as a suitable location because it is farthest away from existing residents and would impact as few people as possible. Further, this location allows new residents to take access directly from Beardsley and will not create additional traffic on Sterling Hills Drive or other local streets. Our objective is to provide a minimum of the width equivalent to two fairways between new and existing homes creating nice views for all.
  8. What happens if we do nothing?
    • Don’t you already have decades of deferred maintenance on this golf course?
      • When we purchased the course, it needed significant upgrades and suffered from significant deferred maintenance. We have done some of that work. However, If we cannot secure funds to invest in the golf course, we may have to sell or close the course. We need to ensure that the business is sustainable and viable in the long term. The SHIP proposal will do just that.
    • How long can you hobble along?
      • We are in need of capital to reinvigorate the course and pay off debts. We will keep maintaining the course while doing small improvements in the meantime.
    • What other alternatives other than adding homes?
      • Conversations with our neighbors, we do not believe homeowners would support at a 67% level in subsidizing the golf course by paying a substantial regular assessment. Private investment is the solution to improving the course and making the business sustainable. Orchards are not our business (Zaruka’s are a hospitality people, not farmers!) We also considered an assisted living facility, but decided that did not fit in this community.
    • What is the course worth today?
      • As many of you know, the golf business is facing significant challenges. The number of rounds played nationally has fallen dramatically and courses that are staying open are those that are making smart improvements, like those we have proposed with the SHIP plan. The course itself, sans F&B component, is probably worth less than $3 million.
    • Can you let existing residents participate in ownership of golf course?
      • We do not want an equity club. This is bureaucratic and unwieldly. We have extensive experience in the golf business and know how to run a successful operation. We are not looking for additional partners at this time.
  9. Consensus building
    • How will you know when you have support of the community?
      • It is critical that community outreach remains a major part of any development proposal. As part of our development agreement with a developer partner, we will require the community is consulted at every step of the way. We are actively looking for a partner that believes in this approach and has a long history of community led development projects.