Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

TOP STORY >>Buying golf course in Sherwood plans

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Alderman Becki Vassar will ask the Sherwood City Council Monday night to give the city attorney permission to start negotiations to buy the North Hills Country Club golf course.

Vassar explained that this doesn’t commit the city to buying it and the ordinance contains no price parameters.

“It’s to show that we are serious about this property,” Vassar said, adding that it is “far too valuable as a greenbelt in the heart of the city” not to make a good-faith effort to buy the property.

“The ordinance will allow our attorney to talk to the property owner’s attorney. It’s a communication tool,” Vassar said.
Mayor Virginia Hillman said she has no problems with the proposed ordinance. “The city needs to explore the feasibility of buying the property and this is a good start,” she said.

Hillman still wants the public to have a major say and doesn’t want to use condemnation procedures to obtain the golf course. “If we buy it we need to pay fair market price for it,” the mayor said.

That price varies from a city-funded feasibility study suggesting Sherwood buy the property for $1.5 million to a city-funded appraisal that puts the property’s value at $2.215 million to the county’s tax appraisal of $3.1 million to Campbell’s $5.1 million offer.

Vassar said the city needs to do something as the six-month building moratorium the council placed on the 106 acres back in April is close to expiring. “We need a plan,” she said.

The moratorium issue is the center of a lawsuit that the golf course owners filed against the city in June.

The owners, Club Properties, have alleged that city had no right to place restriction on the property. At the time of the moratorium Club Properties was negotiating the $5.1 million deal with Campbell.

Campbell had plans to build a high-end gated community of 200 homes on the property. The moratorium thwarted the financing for that deal.

Campbell later came back to community leaders with a plan for just 34 homes and deeding a portion of the golf course land to the city for a park.

“I think this plans covers the three objections the city has—traffic congestions, overburdening the sewer system and keeping green space,” Rodgers said presenting the plan back in May.

His plan garnered no public support from aldermen who have been mum on the golf course since the lawsuit was filed even though Campbell is not part of the suit.

Ronald E. Bragg performed the city-funded appraisal, which cost $8,000. In his report, Bragg states “it is my opinion that the highest and best use of the subject property is no longer as a country club and golf course, but as single-family residential development, and as of the date of my inspection, May 8, 2007, it is my opinion that the subject property had a market value of $2,215,000.”

City Attorney Steve Cobb said even though Bragg recommended that the best use of the property would be as a single-family home development that “this of course does not preclude this property being used for a gold course, park or any other recreational use.”

After receiving the study, former Mayor Bill Harmon appointed what he called a blue-ribbon committee of Sherwood citizens to review the feasibility study. The consensus of the committee was for the city to proceed with attempts to purchase the golf course.

Vassar is looking forward to the golf course becoming part of the city’s parks system.