Kenwood Press

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News: 08/01/2019

Oakmont a step closer to buying golf courses

OVA awaiting results of member vote

The Oakmont Golf Club (OGC) is poised to accept a debt-retirement purchase offer from Oakmont’s home owners association after all other potential buyers wanted to develop at least part of the 250-acre property for housing.

Under the terms of a “letter of intent” signed by the club and the Oakmont Village Association (OVA), the OVA would pay $1.2 million to cover OGC debts and would assume its primary $2.4 million loan. Separately, an experienced private golf operator, Advance Golf Partners (AGP), would lease the golf and restaurant facilities and immediately contribute $1 million for upgrades.

Golf Club president Gary Smith called this plan “the one that best meets all the criteria ... necessary to improve and sustain the property – including 36 holes of golf.”

“Regardless of what we might read or hear in the community, the prevailing view of the value of our property is one of rezone, sub-divide and develop,” Smith said in a July 19 letter to club members. “It makes little or no difference that it might take ten years to get there. Real Estate development is a long game.”

Golf club members were scheduled to vote Aug. 6 on the letter of intent. The next steps in the sale process will also depend out the outcome of a month-long Oakmont community-wide vote that ends Aug. 8. As of press time, voting was easily on pace to produce a record turnout over a ballot measure about golf that doesn’t actually mention golf – instead it asks residents to vote up or down on a proposed 30.6 percent dues increase, from $75 to $98 a month.

In just the first two and a half weeks, more than 2,000 ballots had been returned, well over the 1,605 votes needed to produce the quorum. A simple majority is needed for passage. If the measure passes, OVA will then make the actual offer.

Few expect the battle over Oakmont golf to end when the ballots are counted. Opponents have collected funds for a legal fight if the measure passes, and the OVA board has several options available if it fails. Even without roadblocks, it would take at least until sometime in October for the sale to be completed.

After years of declining revenues, the semi-private Oakmont Golf Club board decided to sell its assets, which include two 18-hole golf courses, the Quail Inn, and other buildings on about 250 acres of land winding through the heart of Oakmont. The asking price is $4.8 million.

Although the face value of the OVA offer is about $1.2 million less than the asking price, the additional funds from AGP would bring the numbers close, Smith said. At least 25 percent of the golf club’s 260 members must also vote on the letter of intent, with 60 percent approval required.

The size of the proposed Oakmont dues increase triggered a special homeowner vote because it exceeds 20 percent. Of the $23 increase, $17 would be directed to golf-related expenses – $7 to cover OGC debts and assume the loan, and $10 to a reserve fund, which OVA would control.

Defeat of the measure would not prevent the OVA board from proceeding, but it would make it far more difficult. The OVA is counting on the lease arrangement, which would require AGP to be responsible for costs including maintenance, taxes, and insurance.

The OVA says money will have been built into the budget to sustain both golf and all other properties, so future dues increases should be only for OVA operations. The golf-related reserve fund would be capped, so if the lease partner turns around the club’s financial situation, the $10-per-member, per-month dues contribution could be reduced or eliminated in future years.

Opponents say that dues will continue to climb, other important Oakmont facilities will be neglected and residents on fixed incomes will suffer. And they say claims that property values will be severely impacted if the courses close are nothing more than scare tactics.

Arguments have coalesced around two basic questions: Whether the OVA’s plan to lease the golf facilities for 30 years is financially sound, and whether the seven-member OVA board of directors can be trusted to make such a momentous purchase decision.

Yard signs, fliers and door-to-door campaigning that typify local elections are on display, but much of this election has been characterized by spirited – and sometimes mean-spirited – comments on one private social media page.

The “no” side is unanimous in opposing the sale, but reasons vary widely after that. Early on it was argued that the City of Santa Rosa would block any attempt to develop the golf courses. More recent arguments warn that the OVA is planning to develop golf course land near the Central Activities area for a new Berger Center and expanded parking.

The “yes” side has migrated away from focusing on keeping golf in Oakmont, and now stresses the importance of gaining control of the 250 acres that bind Oakmont together. Right now, it is the OGC that controls the land and its golf and restaurant facilities, but because its members are primarily Oakmont residents there has been at least a symbiotic relationship with the OVA.

The election is only Oakmont’s second community-wide vote in its 55 years. In 1989, Oakmont members rejected a special assessment of $1,500 to allow OVA to buy the golf courses. It failed by some 300 out of more than 2,400 votes. The OGC was formed privately to buy the properties, but it took a protracted court battle to complete the purchase.


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