Anne Arundel County has shared responsibility for the Crownsville, Md., property with the City of Annapolis, Md., for nearly 50 years, and has allotted $3.3 million in the 2017 budget to buy the aging golf course. The city and county have evenly split maintenance costs and profits for the 18-hole, 6,500-yard course since 1966, which nets about $300,000 annually.
After nearly 50 years of sharing responsibility for Eisenhower Golf Course in Crownsville, Md., with the City of Annapolis, Anne Arundel County wants to take full control, the Annapolis-based Capital Gazette reported.
County Executive Steve Schuh has allotted $3.3 million in his fiscal 2017 budget proposal to buy the aging course. Schuh said the county is better equipped to shoulder the cost of a long list of renovations needed to modernize Eisenhower, one of two public golf courses in Anne Arundel, the Capital Gazette reported.
Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides is on board, but some aldermen are hesitant, the Capital Gazette reported.
“I’m not out to sell it, but I’m not specifically out to keep it,” said Alderman Fred Paone, R-Ward 2. “We need to examine all reasonable possibilities.”
Though Annapolis owns Eisenhower, the city and county have evenly split maintenance costs and profits for the 18-hole, 6,500-yard course since 1966. Officials said the club nets about $300,000 a year, the Capital Gazette reported.
A lease spelling out that agreement expires next month. Legislation before the City Council would extend the lease for a year to give officials time to consider their next steps, the Capital Gazette reported.
Eisenhower’s location, its open, parklike layout and the dearth of affordable courses in the area make it a popular spot for local golfers and a profitable business. The county loses money on its other public course, Compass Pointe in Pasadena. Schuh sees acquiring Eisenhower as part of his effort to improve the county’s quality of life, the Capital Gazette reported.
“Golf is one of the core offerings of the Department of Recreation and Parks, along with youth programs, bike trails and swimming pools,” he said, adding that the course is in a “borderline decrepit state.”
Recreation and Parks Director Rick Anthony attributed much of the course’s deterioration to the difficulties of joint ownership. “There was nothing built into that original agreement to make reinvestments into the course,” Anthony said.
Damian Cosby, PGA General Manager, has compiled a list of renovations for the facility. Among them is a new clubhouse. The current one has severe water damage and mold growing on its drywall, forcing staff to work out of a trailer on the property instead. The list also includes tree maintenance, bunker repairs, a new irrigation system, replacement of the turf with Bermuda grass and fixes to the car paths, the Capital Gazette reported.
Cosby said such improvements wouldn’t just be cosmetic—they’re necessary to handle the course’s growing popularity. “I was asked to put together a list of No. 1 and No. 2 priorities, and there are no No. 2 priorities,” he said.
When the county became eligible for state funds through the Program Open Space initiative, Anthony saw an opportunity to acquire the golf course. For years money for Program Open Space—which uses transfer tax revenues to support parks and conservation programs throughout Maryland—was diverted to cover other costs. Gov. Larry Hogan restored $20 million to the fund in fiscal 2017 and committed another $60 million for fiscal 2018, the Capital Gazette reported.
Because accepting Program Open Space money for a property commits jurisdictions to maintain it as parkland, County Councilman Chris Trumbauer, whose district includes Eisenhower Golf Course, supports the county’s bid to buy, the Capital Gazette reported.
“One thing I don’t want is for that area to turn into McMansions,” said Trumbauer, D-Annapolis. “I think if the county acquires it, that will never happen.”
The city and county each had the value of the golf course assessed last year. The result averaged out to a little more than $3 million, Anthony said. Renovations would cost the county another $4 million, Schuh estimated. He predicted capital bond payments would be offset by Eisenhower’s revenues, the Capital Gazette reported.
“We will break even immediately,” Schuh said.
But Alderman Ross Arnett, D-Ward 8, thinks the facility could be improved for a lot less. “The course is just fine,” said Arnett, who golfs there. “I don’t have a problem with it.”
Arnett is “adamantly opposed” to selling Eisenhower, and said the city would be better off retaining ownership and finding a management company to run it. “It seems to me like it’s foolish for us to get rid of an asset that is revenue-generating,” he said. “The county is avid to get their hands on that course, and that tells me there’s value there.”
Paone, who is on the council’s Finance Committee with Arnett, agreed. “If the price is right, we’d be interested in selling it” — but $3 million seemed too low, Paone said.
Pantelides, meanwhile, said improving the golf course would require “a huge investment,” adding that it’s also a matter of his philosophy of government. “We’re not in the business of running golf courses,” he said.
This isn’t the first time the city has considered selling the course. In 2013, then-Mayor Josh Cohen requested proposals from potential buyers and tenants, but didn’t act on any of the offers. Trumbauer plans to wait and see what the City Council decides. County Council members are analyzing Schuh’s budget proposal, and will take a final vote on the spending plan on June 15, the Capital Gazette reported.
“I feel like it’s not my job to sell them on this. If they don’t want to sell, that’s fine,” Trumbauer said. “But it’s hard to make the case for keeping that money in (the budget) when nothing’s happening with it.”