Leader Blues

Saturday, March 22, 2008

TOP STORY > >Golf course hearing set for Monday

Leader staff writer

The Sherwood City Council could decide Monday if a petition asking to send the issue of condemning the North Hills golf course to a public vote goes forward.

Based on a 1978 city ordinance, the council must hold a public hearing on any referendum petition and it will do so at its 7 p.m. council meeting at the police department building Monday.

The ordinance states that the council shall “hear all who wish to be heard on the question” and then verify if the petition has enough valid signatures. The council will then decide if the petition is a dead issue or goes forward for a public vote. The council decision is final unless someone sues over the decision within 30 days.

About 30 Sherwood residents have been circulating petitions to force a public vote on the condemnation of the North Hills golf course property.

In January, the city council voted to condemn and take control of the defunct 106-acre North Hills County Club, and the official condemnation paperwork was filed in February.

Using the condemnation power of eminent domain allowed the city to take possession of the property immediately and then the fair market price is determined in court at a later date.

Appraisals vary from a city-funded study that said the land, as a golf course, was worth $2.2 million, to the county tax rolls which has the property appraised at more than $3 to a one-time firm offer of $5.1 million to an owner-funded appraisal of $5.5 million.

Whatever amount the court decides on will be funded through the city’s facilities board which would go out and get the loan for the court-determined cost, which may also include the current owner’s expenses and legal fees, and the city would make monthly payments on that amount.

Slightly more than 1, 200 valid signatures are needed for the referendum. The petition calls for the condemnation ordinance to be taken to the “people of Sherwood” so that residents can approve or reject the idea. The petition calls for the vote to occur “at the earliest date possible” this year.

When the petition was due, organizers asked the city for 10 more days to continue gathering signatures, citing an attorney general’s opinion that allows for more time. The city refused.

“Our group of concerned citizens are attempting to allow the voters of Sherwood to decide the fate of the former North Hills Country Club property,” said Julann Carney, one of the petition organizers. “The public should be given a voice on this volatile issue instead a handful of politicians whose votes left us with the perception that their motivations were not above board,” she said.

Alderman Charlie Harmon made it clear at the January council meeting that a public vote was unnecessary and it usurped the powers and duties of the council.

“We make these tough decisions and are elected by the people to make them. We would go broke if we held special elections all the time,” he said.

Carney said, “Since the condemnation action was voted on by the council, the only avenue to affect change in this issue is to allow voters to approve or deny condemnation of the property.”

Also on the Sherwood council agenda:

Two ordinances to rezone property. The first will rezone 404 E. Kiehl Ave. from R-1 (residential) to C-3 (commercial). The second ordinance would rezone 10219 Hwy. 107 from R-1 to R-1 conditional use.

The council will also hear reports from the advertising and promotion commission, the civil service commission, the parks and recreation committee, sewer committee and the personnel committee.

The council will also consider a resolution to to select an engineer for street or drainage projects.