A family feud over Shorewood’s largest parcel of land is now spurring dueling development plans.
Bill Witrak abruptly shut down the 95-year-old Minnetonka Country Club last fall, one of the oldest golf courses in Minnesota, and has a purchase agreement with a developer to build high-end homes on the 116 acres near Lake Minnetonka.
Now, his sister, Bonnie Witrak, angered by the loss of her late father’s golf course, has submitted her own plans to the city to keep part of the golf course open while adding apartments, townhouses and a sporting facility.
The siblings, both doctors, are entangled in a lawsuit over the land, with a hearing that took place in Hennepin County District Court on April 20; also listed as defendants are two other board members, brother, Geoffrey Witrak, and Bonnie Witrak’s son, Collin Gumprecht.
“I love my brothers; I don’t like this,” said Bonnie Witrak of their plans, adding she was told the golf course was closing last October. “I was shocked and unhappy.”
Her plans, submitted informally to the city this month, don’t change anything in the city’s process yet, Planning Director Brad Nielsen said. An advisory panel of 21 residents is meeting twice a month until June to help the city determine priorities for the site and the surrounding area, such as environmental effects and traffic changes.
The city is also asking residents to share their input in an online survey at minnetonkacc.mindmixer.com.
In January, developer Mattamy Homes submitted preliminary concept plans to the city’s Planning Commission to build 121 homes priced from $800,000 to $1 million, clustered to preserve about 60 acres of wetlands, trails and public or private space.
Mattamy leaders are “still confident they’ll close” this summer, Nielsen said, adding about Bonnie Witrak’s plans: “What she’s proposing is drastically different than what our ordinance allows. We haven’t seen anything that says she has control of the property.”
The lawsuit has “absolutely no merit,” Bill Witrak said via e-mail, adding that the country club is “continuing its planned sale of property to Mattamy Homes.”
Minnetonka Country Club opened in 1916. Over the years, it survived two clubhouse fires and boasted being one of the oldest continuously active golf courses in Minnesota.
The Witrak family’s father, Bohdan, bought it in 1954 and became the sole owner in 1965 before transferring the ownership to family in 2014 before his death last December at the age of 99.
After Bonnie Witrak was notified the golf course was closing — one of 18 golf courses to be closed across the state since 2006 — she filed a lawsuit in January in Hennepin County District Court, accusing her brother of illegally selling the country club without the consent of all the club’s shareholders. In the lawsuit, Bonnie Witrak, a minority shareholder, accuses her brother of destroying documents and failing to “exercise reasonable care in the operation of the golf course and sale of assets” by hiring or consulting with country club professionals to operate the club in a profitable way. She said in the lawsuit that the club was closed and the personal property was sold without shareholder consent, and her brother failed to get an independent appraisal on the land, selling it for $15 million, under the appraised value of more than $20 million.
She’s working with an architect to develop her own plans, keeping the clubhouse and adding dining, retail and a sports center. In her plans, she would keep 40 of the 116 acres an 18-hole par three golf course. The rest of the land would be developed, with two eight-story towers with 120 units total, 86 townhouses built on the southern perimeter of the property and 101 apartments build on the western perimeter of the site.
She envisions having cross-country skiing on the golf course in the winter and trails for pedestrians around the golf course. She said tennis courts could be converted into soccer fields and the community could use the clubhouse for the dining and retail. A sporting facility would have indoor tennis, an electric driving range and indoor swimming.
“It’s not to build something, make a profit and run … the last thing the world needs is another shopping mall or residential area,” she said from her Seattle area home, adding that her development plans call for both private and public spaces for the community. “You have to do it right.”