Mount Vernon neighborhood to go to trial to bring beloved golf course back to life

A neighborhood in Mount Vernon is going to court hoping to bring a beloved golf course back to life.

However, their fight to restore Eaglemont Golf Course hasn’t been without setbacks, including claims of religious intolerance, and most recently, acts of violence.

On Nov. 9, the clubhouse at Eaglemont was severely vandalized.

"Well over 100 windows shattered last week, a fire was started outside here," said Kent Haberly, who lives in the Eaglemont neighborhood. "There’s probably a quarter of a million dollars of damage."

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Pictures of vandalism at the former Eaglemont Golf Course in Mount Vernon, provided by Kent Haberly.

Hours after the vandalism, Mount Vernon Police said a 41-year-old man was arrested and booked into the Skagit County Community Justice Center. Authorities said the suspect faces charges of residential burglary, theft, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of burglary tools.   

Haberly created a blog to generate conversation about restoring Eaglemont. As startling as the damage looks, neighbors like Haberly said they saw the act of violence coming.

"It was predictable. We knew this was going to happen," said Haberly. "The owner nor the lender have taken any effort whatsoever to secure this place, or provide any kind of security."

Over the course of 30 years, more than 270 homes were built around Eaglemont, establishing the neighborhood as a public golf course club.

By the time Kent Haberly moved to the Eaglemont neighborhood, the public golf course closed in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said no one in the area at that time expected the contentious future that lied ahead for the golf course.

Beacon Hill International Ministries bought the property in 2022 on a $3 million loan.

"When they purchased it, it was in pristine condition, beautiful condition. It had been maintained, but not open for golf. And once they took over, they mowed and did some maintenance for a while. And then it just stopped," said Haberly. "The golf course has been unmaintained for months on end. We’ve got weeds three feet high on the greens. I mean, it’s just ridiculous. It’s a tragedy, really."

Cat Clark, an attorney representing Beacon Hill International Ministries, said her client purchased the property with plans to convert it to a faith-based retreat.

Haberly and other members of the Eaglemont Homeowners Association contested the idea of a retreat. Neighbors said the land was always intended for a public golf course and cited the city’s original ordinance permitted in 1992.

As the property continued slumping into disrepair, Haberly said he and other homeowners tried convincing Beacon Mill International Ministries and their loan lender, Romano Capital, to foreclose, but got no answers. 

"Over a couple of months period, [we] decided we had no other option but to force this into a receivership," said Haberly.

Haberly and his neighbors filed a lawsuit in March. Clark said she believes there is an element of religious discrimination against her client in this case. Clark also said she disagrees with the neighbors’ points of equitable servitude for the space mentioned in the lawsuit.

"The purpose of the lawsuit is to force a sale to somebody who will then open and operate the golf course. And we know there are interested parties. We keep hearing from possible buyers, but they can’t do anything until the receiver is appointed," said Haberly. 

The possibility of a receiver will now be determined in court. A trial is scheduled for Jan. 22, 2024 at the Skagit County Courthouse.

In the meantime, Clark said she is openly talking to attorneys of the neighbors on possible solutions.

Haberly said the only answer to the situation is returning Eaglemont to its glory.

"It’s a gem, could be a gem. It’s in rough shape obviously right now," said Haberly. "Can be redone. It can be reopened, there is a possibility. But that’s our end goal and I know the homeowners aren’t going to give up."