Kenwood Press

Serving the communities of Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Oakmont

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News: 12/01/2017

Oakmont Golf Club seeking OVA financial support

The Oakmont Golf Club (OGC) and the Oakmont Village Association (OVA) are negotiating an agreement under which the OVA would provide financial support for the golf courses beginning in 2019, OGC leaders say.

Details of the support, which could include partial OVA ownership of the two 18-hole golf courses, were discussed at a Nov. 12 town hall meeting sponsored by the club at Oakmont’s East Recreation Center.

Among the approximately 50 residents in attendance, there appeared to be significant support for the idea of providing financial backing for the courses. One resident, who moved to Oakmont recently, said, “Very few people pay for the golf course, but a lot of people benefit from it.” She said members of the community have to be convinced that they benefit from the golf links.

Barbara Robinson, president of the OGC board, said that an OVA-OGC task force is making “a fabulous, positive effort” to “make sure the golf course revenue is where it should be. We have had multiple supportive meetings with various OVA board presidents and directors as well as the OVA lawyer Malcolm Manwell.” She said they are aiming at having an agreement in place by 2019. Additional town halls will be held to get input from Oakmont residents, she said.

Robinson said the golf courses might need just “a little bit every month” from Oakmont residents and the mention of a $10 increase in monthly dues drew some applause.

Neil Huber, an attorney for the OGC, told the Kenwood Press there is “nothing to preclude” OVA from having “an interest of some sort” in the golf courses. There has been some suggestion that the state Davis-Stirling Act governing planned communities like Oakmont would preclude such an arrangement.

Rick Warfel, secretary of the OGC board, laid out the case for community support with a PowerPoint presentation outlining the “many benefits” OGC provides to the community. Warfel, with a broad background in golf course economics, estimated that the golf courses increase the value of all Oakmont homes by more than $100 million. He said this includes an average increase of $70,000 for the 500 homes with a view of the courses and $25,000 for the remaining 2,700 homes.

The financial squeeze, he said, is reflected in the reduction in rounds of golf from 120,000 a year a couple of years ago to 60,000 now. And the club is supported by only 323 members while serving over 4,700 residents. As a result, he said, the maintenance staff is down from more than 20 workers to just 14.

Warfel held up the recent bankruptcy and closing of the Adobe Creek Golf Course in Petaluma as an example of what could happen. He showed pictures of the 320 homes bordering on unsightly expanses of dead grass and crumbling fences.

Ownership of Oakmont’s two golf courses has often been controversial. In 1989 residents voted to against assessing themselves $1,500 to buy the facilities from founding developer H. N. Berger for $4 million. That ultimately led to the formation of the OGC, with 853 members, which was able to purchase the properties in 1992 for $2.96 million and pay off legal costs arising from the dispute.

With the 2008 recession and the popularity of the sport on the decline, day-to-day operation of the courses and its bar and restaurant were transferred to Kemper Sports, a professional golf management company headquartered in Northbrook, Illinois.

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