The Lakewood Village Board decided not to put its RedTail Golf Course on the block Tuesday night.
The meeting was packed with people living near the RedTail Golf Course.
While the Board,with the exception of Gene Furey, had favored putting a motion on the agenda to declare RedTail “surplus property” (the first step toward trying to sell it), the Board voted 6-0 to defeat the motion after hearing public comment
It was obvious that an intense lobbying effort had been made by those believing that sale of the village-owned golf course would negatively affect their property values.
One-year resident Doug Waitekus revealed that his family moved to Lakewood because the three- year vacant home they purchased was on the golf course.
Playing off the statement that the village board had decided not to subsidize RedTail with property tax or other village revenues, he said,
“I would be more than happy that some of my taxes go into the golf course.”
He also suggested that possibly part of a reconstituted Special Service Area (due to expire in 2015) could go to the golf course.
Walt Kalemba member of the Board who voted to purchased the golf course in 1992 said they saw it as “a valuable asset for the community, kind of a break even thing.”
He referred to the opinion of several people that the course needed to reach out to women and families.
He told of former Crystal Lake Country Club golf pro Fritz Franz’ having walked the course and concluded that it was “not user friendly.” He specifically mentioned that the tees were set back too far for women.
He also thought the course name should not have been changed from Lakewood Golf Course to RedTail.
Asked where he stood on the sale, he said, “I’m on the fence.”
Earlier Jeff Iden reminded people, “Remember, we’re not the Board that bought the golf course.”
A thread running through the meeting was that golf is in big trouble as a business.
“It’s not a good business to be in,” Steve Barnett of South Shore Drive declared.
He thought the consultant Lakewood hired for about $3,000 was correct in his estimate that if one golf course went out of business each day for the next ten years, the business could return to profitability.
He observed that a $60,000 annual return on a $2 million property was not particularly good.
He suggested a referendum on the question of selling the course.
“We don’t need to be in the business. It’s not going to get any better in five years.,” Barnett said. “It’s just too overbuilt.”
Cheryl Nix said she and her husband bought their home on the 10th hole eight years ago. From her one year of college economics, she said she learned an important lesson:
“Why sell low after we have invested so much money.”
She also said the $1.9 million price specified in the motion was “unrealistic,” considering that Bull Valley Country Club with its impressive clubhouse had sold for $2 million.
She was the second person to suggest holding a referendum.
Rich Ford, who chaired the RedTail Committee for three years agreed the $1.9 million price was too high, considering the lack of a clubhouse.
He said “Oak sold for a million bucks and it has a clubhouse.”
He also observed that the only courses “making money are those owned by governments”
Dave Wiggin observed that “golf courses that are failing are burdened with debt and pay taxes.”
“Don’t let the golf course be the driver (for lower property values),” he urged.
Debbie Hall said she was disappointed that “we haven’t put aside money for capital expenditures.”
She also read information from the National Association of Homebuilders that had living on a golf course one of the reasons people buy homes costing more than $500,000.
Don Miller identified himself as the one who started the rumor that the money from selling the golf course would be used to build a new village hall.
“What drove the development around RedTail?” he asked.
“It was the village buying the golf course.”
He said he feared the Law of Unintended Consequences if the golf course were sold to a business.
“What happens in five years…It’s closed.”
Midway through the public comment period, Village President Erin Smith told the crowd that inquiries had been made about purchasing the golf course, but that “after listening to the residents (it was fair to conclude) these two motions will not pass.”
Several people said there was no business plan.
“I’m going to take exception to [the assertion] that there’s no plan,” Village Administrator Catherine Peterson said.
“We’ve been trying to set aside money for capital expenditures.”
“Maybe RedTail will be one of the courses that survives,” Smith said. “The short-term is fine,” she continued, observing “the long-term” is the problem.
“Everybody who lives on the course needs to make use of the property.”