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Birkdale Golf Club has paid back taxes, state officials say


Birkdale Golf Club in Huntersville has paid its delinquent state taxes, officials said Wednesday, one day after the club was abruptly shut down and locked up by the N.C. Department of Revenue.

Court records show Birkdale Golf Club hadn’t paid judgments of $64,990 to the state DOR, as well as $128,879 to the Internal Revenue Service.

“Birkdale has paid all the requisite taxes in full and have the keys to the facility,” said Trevor Johnson, a DOR spokesman. He said club officials completed a walkthrough and got the keys back at around 1:30 p.m.

Tax liens and court filings show the club and its parent company have been in financial trouble for months. The course is being sued by lenders for unpaid debts and by the Birkdale Homeowners Association for allegedly letting the course fall into disrepair. And the course’s parent company, Carolina Trail Golf Partners, paid workers more than $750,000 in back wages in January after the U.S. Department of Labor investigated its pay practices.

But Jeff Silverstein, owner of the Carolina Trail golf courses, said Birkdale Golf Club will reopen Wednesday. He said the company is current with its taxes and that Tuesday’s closure – which included locksmiths changing dozens of locks and police officers blocking the doors – was a misunderstanding.

“There was a missed payment, and we’re wiring them the money,” Silverstein said Tuesday in a phone interview. “Everything’s up to date. It’s not a problem.”

Johnson said the golf club was closed after a civil warrant was issued Tuesday morning. “The closure is a last resort,” he said.

Company officials have been in talks with the Department of Revenue about unpaid taxes for some time, Johnson said.

Eric Sims, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Carolina Trail Golf Partners, apologized in an emailed statement for the closure and said the club would reopen Thursday.

“Birkdale Golf Club is reopening for business tomorrow, July 4th. We apologize to our customers and members for any inconvenience and frustration caused by the closure,” he wrote.

Silverstein said the taxes the company owes the IRS have also been paid. When asked about the federal liens, he said he has proof that he has paid off the taxes and that Mecklenburg County’s records are out of date. “We have proof the liens were paid,” Silverstein said.

But he declined to share any documents with the Observer. “I don’t think it was any of your business,” said Silverstein.

The company’s troubles also extend to local taxes. According to an email sent Tuesday by Mecklenburg Assistant County Manager Dena Diorio to county officials, The Tradition, Highland Creek, Charlotte Golf Links, Skybrook and Birkdale courses owe a combined total of $54,895 in delinquent business property taxes, and Charlotte Golf Links and Skybrook owe a combined $137,714 in real estate taxes. The county has considered foreclosing on the courses, Diorio wrote. The owner has promised to pay all the taxes by Aug. 20. All of those courses are members of the Carolina Trail golf group.

IRI Golf Management, a California-based company, is listed in North Carolina corporate records as managing most of the Carolina Trail golf courses. The rest are listed as being managed by Old Pueblo Golf Partners, which has the same address and phone number as IRI.

Silverstein, who founded IRI, told the Observer that the company is no longer in business and he now personally owns all seven of the Carolina Trail golf courses, which also include The Divide and Waterford golf clubs. His LinkedIn profile says Silverstein founded IRI Golf Management in 1991 and that he has owned or operated more than 120 golf facilities in the U.S.

Surprise, anger at course

Golfer Rick Best thought it was a prank Tuesday afternoon when he saw the “no trespassing” sign on the door at the Birkdale clubhouse. Police officers turned him away.

Best, who pays $1,100 a year for his membership, plays golf at the Arnold Palmer-designed course almost every other day, he said. He had a round scheduled with a few friends Tuesday and called them from the parking lot to tell them it wouldn’t be taking place.

Woody Taylor isn’t a member of the club, but he plays every Thursday night in a league with a group of friends, he said. “Where’s the league going to go?” he asked.

Mark Bodo said he put down $6,000 in cash to have his daughter’s wedding at the club this fall. The club offered him a $1,000 discount if he paid up front in cash, he said.

“If I would’ve known about this, I wouldn’t have done it,” he said.

Legal troubles

The Birkdale Golf Club faces other lawsuits alleging unpaid debts and poor property maintenance, and its parent company has faced scrutiny over unpaid wages.

• Court records show the Birkdale club is being sued by PNC Equipment Finance to repossess $240,000 worth of maintenance equipment and monetary damages of $232,613. Another of Silverstein’s properties, Skybrook Golf Club in Huntersville, is being sued by PNC Equipment Finance for equipment worth $200,000 and damages of $158,681. The lawsuits were both filed last month in federal court in Charlotte and are pending.

• The Birkdale Homeowners Association filed a legal action in Mecklenburg County Superior Court last month against Birkdale Golf Club for allegedly letting the property fall into disrepair. According to the complaint, the golf club had failed to maintain the siding and roof on the clubhouse and pavilion, a retaining wall and paint on the property.

Silverstein told the Observer that the conflict with the HOA has been resolved but did not provide specifics.

• In January, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that Carolina Trail Golf Partners had paid $758,465 worth of back wages to employees after an investigation at Charlotte-area golf clubs. Employees were being issued paychecks five to six weeks late, the Department of Labor said, and not being paid for overtime.

On Tuesday, two Birkdale Golf Club employees who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals said there are still problems with receiving paychecks on time. Best, the golfer, said he hears complaints “all the time” from employees who receive bad paychecks.

Another man who said he was an employee at Skybrook Golf Club said he hadn’t been paid in a month.

Silverstein denied those accusations. He said all employees are being paid on time. “They are totally up to date on payroll,” he said of his golf courses.

Other courses associated with Silverstein and IRI have experienced financial problems in recent years. The Arizona Daily Star reported last year that the Arizona National Golf Club in Tucson was shut down for nearly two months after the city disconnected its water service over a $257,316 unpaid bill.

In 2010, the Dallas Morning News reported that 200 residents came to a special city council meeting in Rockwall, Texas, to vent concerns about IRI and a nearby golf course that was allegedly in disrepair. Another IRI-owned golf course in Garland, Texas, reportedly had its power cut off in 2010 after failing to pay the electricity bill. Silverstein told the paper that the issue was simply “a problem of checks passing in the mail.”

At Birkdale, meanwhile, members such as Bob Cooper wonder when the issues will be resolved.

“This thing should have been the crown jewel of the area,” Cooper said. “It’s such a nice piece of property.” Staff researcher Maria David and staff writers Neil Haggerty and David Perlmutt contributed

Portillo: 704-358-5041 On Twitter @ESPortillo
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