For the past six weeks, members of the resident-driven Golf Course Finance Advisory Committee have met to discuss whether there exists a viable alternative to continuing to operate the golf course as-is. The committee is comprised of residents of the community, some who voted for the course, some who voted against the course, some who golf, some who do not golf, but all of whom are dedicated to carefully researching the issues and acting in the best interest of Cedar Hills.
This re-convening of the committee came about because Councilman Rob Crawley decided to perform an analysis of the golf course and present to residents an “Option B”–an alternative to keeping the golf course. This is not the first time that a different option has been explored. Several years ago, staff and city officials spent many hours meeting with legal and financial experts, researching ways to reduce the golf course debt. The result of this research and consultation was the reconfiguration of the golf course that allowed the creation of the paper lots known as St. Andrews Estates. While the intentions of this process were good, the reconfiguration was costly, the hoped-for sale of the lots did not materialize, and St. Andrews Estates remains undeveloped.
Nevertheless, the committee was reconvened, and has spent many hours analyzing the financial, legal, and economic factors related to a possible Option B. Because the committee is close to completing their research and plans to present a comprehensive report to residents, I won’t dive into all of the details here. I will say however that the vast majority of the committee members agree that the “Option B” presented to them is based on so many unknowns and questionable assumptions that they cannot support it as a viable option.
A few months ago I wrote a blog post about the golf course. I stated then that I have not seen any alternate proposals that made sense either legally or financially for the city. Sitting through weeks of these committee meetings has reaffirmed this view. The Option B presented is full of assumptions and maybes presented as fact. I do not believe it is wise for the city to face the legal and financial risks of abandoning the golf course, based on one person’s hopes and assumptions.
Within the next few weeks, this committee will release its findings and recommendations to the city. My hope is that every resident will read through it and ask every elected official and every Council candidate where they stand. All of the current elected officials have attended most, if not all, of these meetings. Most of the Council candidates have attended many of the meetings. We’ve heard the options, the debate, the challenges, the pros and cons. All elected officials and candidates now have enough information to take a stand, one way or the other. So ask them what they feel is the best option.
I’ve heard Rob Crawley and two of the Council candidates state that they don’t know what the best option is, and they want it to go to a vote of the residents. Our legal counsel has stated that the City Council can’t put this on a ballot, so these same three people have suggested the city needs to conduct a survey to assess the position of the residents on the issue of the golf course. However, this is not a new issue, and the position of Cedar Hills residents on this issue has been made very clear in repeated elections; candidates who advocate continuing to operate the golf course in a financially responsible manner have done well, while those who advocate abandoning the golf course have fared poorly. Likewise, citizens who have given public comments in city meetings, or provided comments on social media and other forums have largely supported the continued, financially responsible operation of the golf course. These comments should be given weight, just as candidates have given weight to citizen comments regarding high-density housing in the city.
The role of a City Council member is to make wise decisions on issues impacting the city and its residents based on the best information available—conversations with citizens, discussions with subject matter experts, careful analysis, etc. The issue of what to do with the golf course is one on which there is no shortage of information, and one on which every candidate should have a clear position. At every Council meeting elected officials are expected to make decisions that impact the city. Candidates should be able and willing to take a clear position on an issue without taking a poll. And if they maintain that a poll is absolutely necessary in order to gauge the position of the citizens on the issue of the golf course, the most effective way to accomplish that is to make it a campaign issue by taking a position on it. The highest turnout we’ve had for a city-wide survey is only approximately 300 residents, whereas in just this last primary election, we had over 1500 ballots submitted. I challenge each candidate to make a statement telling residents what they feel is the best option for the city with regards to the golf course, just as most have done with regards to high-density housing this election cycle. Show residents your leadership and ability to make decisions and let them vote for those who support their views on what they feel is best for the city.