Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

TOP STORY >>Sherwood puts freeze on changes of golf course

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

The Sherwood City Council wants to prevent any owner of the North Hills Country Club from making any changes to the property for at least the next six months—and it could mean a lawsuit against the city.

Aldermen approved the first reading of a resolution calling for a six-month moratorium on any and all building permits, rezoning requests or any other work projects for the 100-acre golf course on the corner of Hwy. 107 and Country Club Drive.
Mayor Bill Harmon explained that the soon-to-be owner had given the city 30 days to purchase the property from him.
“It’ll take us longer than 30 days to complete the feasibility study, get an appraisal, decide on how to pay for it and bring it before the people for a vote,” Harmon said. “We just can’t do all that in 30 days.”

The city has issued a moratorium before when Chapel Links Apartments wanted to build in the city. The apartment builders took the city to court over the moratorium. The city eventually pulled the moratorium and the apartments were built.
“You can prevent another lawsuit by leasing the property from me for $35,000 a month,” soon-to-be-owner Bill Campbell told the council. He expects to close on the deal later this week.

The developer has plans for a gated high-end housing subdivision for the golf course area. “If you needed more than 30 days, you should have asked instead of coming forward with this moratorium,” Campbell said.
The mayor said the moratorium wouldn’t cost the buyer any money.

“Yes, it will cost me,” Campbell said. “I’ll be stuck with a debt service of $35,000 a month.” Campbell said the moratorium does two things.

“It’s done to scare the lender, to stop any excavation and that’s so I don’t alter the greens,” he said. Campbell also made it clear that he would be meeting with the citizens of the city soon. “Not you city officials, but the citizens,” he said, adding that if the city takes the issue before the citizens for a vote it will lose. “But in the meantime, it’s all at my expense,” Campbell said.

The developer reminded the council that it had been sued over this issue before and ended up paying $250,000.
“You are as wrong as rain,” Harmon said, saying that the city did not lose the suit, but pulled out.

Resident Julann Carney, who is circulating a petition to get the prosecuting attorney to look into illegal meetings of the city council, said, “ I realize that the issue regarding the golf course is a very emotional one for many people, especially those who live beside it.  However, I do not feel that the moratorium that they put in place was an act of good faith by the city with the developers,” she said.

Carney added, “I won’t be surprised whatsoever if a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the city isn’t sought. We can’t afford more lawsuits that we won’t win.”

The resolution must be read and passed three times by the council before becoming law. At this point, the council will take up the matter again at its May council meeting. the end of May, unless a special meeting is called.