The golf course is a hot topic in our city. I’ll start by saying that I did not live in Cedar Hills when the golf course started, nor when it was voted on by residents, so my understanding of the history comes from various conversations I’ve had with previous elected officials and residents who lived here during that time. I’m sure many of you already know the history of how the golf course came to be so I won’t include that here.
My goal as a member of the City Council isn’t to look backwards and discuss what could have been done differently, but to look forward and figure out the best course of action for the present and future. Our reality is that we have a bond to pay on the golf course, and that debt will be ours for the next 20 years. I’ve heard some state that we should shut down the course and turn it into something else. Here are some of my concerns with this.
- As mentioned above, we do have a bond to pay for the golf course. Being concerned or feeling frustrated about the amount we pay for that bond each year is valid; however, turning the golf course into something else doesn’t remove that debt.
- If we were to shut down the golf course and convert it into a park, we would have to bond again to reconfigure it into park space. I had someone tell me that we could just change the sign from city golf course to city park and not make any changes. While that is an option, my feeling is that most residents wouldn’t consider the golf course, as is, a viable park. Our other park spaces have playground equipment for children, pavilion space for family gatherings, trees for shade, and flat space for youth sports. The golf course offers none of these amenities. While it is true that kids could just play on the grass, my guess is that most families in Cedar Hills would want amenities like the other parks. We do not have the money available to convert the course into parks like the others, so we would have to obtain more debt to convert it. Additionally, parks require maintenance, so we would continue to budget for maintenance while eliminating all revenue coming through the golf course in the form of green fees, tournaments, and pro shop sales.
- There is a high potential for a lawsuit if the city were to shut down the golf course. The homes in the Cedars were built as part of a development agreement granting open space in exchange for density. Shutting down the golf course would violate those development agreements. Additionally, approximately half of the golf course is located in Highland and is part of their open space plans. They expect us to honor the agreement entered into when they allowed us to build a golf course in their city.
I am not opposed to exploring alternatives to the golf course, but I haven’t yet seen a proposal that makes sense for the city from a financial and legal perspective. I believe that the best course of action is to reduce the debt as much as possible and to work to increase revenues.
We have done a few things over the past four years to accomplish this goal. In 2012 we refinanced the golf course bond at a new lower rate of 2.47%, which equates to a total savings of approximately $500,000 over the life of the loan. Staff has worked hard to increase the number of golf tournaments from 28 in 2012 to 42 in 2014. We have already had 37 tournaments through the end of May this year. Season pass revenue has increased from $35,436 in 2012 to $78,114 in 2014. While these things haven’t eliminated the golf course subsidy, they have helped reduce it. However, I don’t see a time when the golf course won’t receive a subsidy for operations and the bond payment.
I’m not a golfer and I wish we weren’t in the golf course business. That being said, I recognize that we have a financial obligation to pay the bond and a legal obligation to fulfill our part of any development agreements entered into with the golf course. If any alternatives are presented that make financial and legal sense, I would be happy to research and discuss them at length with the Council and with residents. In the meantime, I would love to hear ideas on how to increase resident use of the golf course, whether that be additional golf camps, additional free passes, or through other ideas you may have.