FRONT ROYAL – Heirs of William and Agnes Carson — the couple who donated the Front Royal Golf Club’s land for public use — are claiming that the county is not the property’s rightful owner.
According to previous reports, the Carsons in 1938 donated the golf course land to the citizens of Warren County with a deed stipulating that the land be used for recreational purposes including golf. In 2005, the county assumed management of the golf club’s operations.
In July 2018, the county filed a petition seeking removal of the clause stipulating that the land have an operating golf course. The county later opted to not pursue that any further in court.
According to court documents, lawyers who were appointed to represent the Carsons’ heirs, however, answered the county’s petition by “asserting that the County did not have fee simple title to the Property, but merely a license.”
County Administrator Doug Stanley said that “in essence, there’s a question about the title of the property” and the Carsons’ heirs have challenged whether or not the county has title to the property.
Supervisors Chairman Walter Mabe agreed with that assessment, saying over the phone that “the way that I see it is that the Carson family gave it to the county and now the Carson heirs are coming back and saying ‘no they didn’t give it, they leased it.’”
Mabe added that the county is not spending any money on legal fees as it has title insurance and a title company is pursuing the matter on the county’s behalf.
That title company is now requesting a court ruling that the county owns the property while the heirs are seeking for it to be resolved that they own it.
Meanwhile, the county recently considered paying a private firm $100,000 annually to manage the course that has operated at an average annual deficit of $136,000 since 2014.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted against leasing the course to New Direction Golf Management.
Supervisor Tony Carter said he supported the motion against leasing the course “primarily because things are still kind of up in the air with the title company.”
In voting against the lease, Supervisor Delores Oates said the “government is intended to provide essential services to the community.”
“Golf is not one of those…What if the community decided they wanted a government bowling alley?” Oates said.
During a public comment period, Bowling Green Country Club co-owner Ginger Wrinkler said that no management company can uphold the promises being made by New Direction.
Resident Paul Gabbert said it is “absurd” for the county to spend $100,000 for a company to assume management of the course. For that amount of money, he said: “I’ll do it.”
“So will I,” Wrinkler agreed.
Front Royal Golf Club Advisory Committee member Henry Linger said that the course has its best chance to reach its full potential with the assistance of New Direction. He also pointed out that the course is one of the oldest in Virginia and he urged the supervisors to save the historic site.