The county-owned Menomonee Falls, Wis. course has been in a financial deficit for the last decade, and could be approved for a sale as soon as June 23. A deal would include a stipulation that a developer would run the site as a golf course for four years after the sale, but a grassroots group—Save Wanaki—fears the course would be neglected.
The financially troubled Wanaki Golf Course in Menomonee Falls, Wis. is getting closer to having a new private owner, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The sale from the county would include a stipulation that a developer would run the site as a golf course for four years after the sale. A pressing question remains, however, for the grassroots group, Save Wanaki. Will it be a residential or golf course developer?
Waukesha County’s Land Use, Parks and Environment Committee discussed the possibility of selling the course in closed session June 16, the Journal Sentinel reported. The county board could approve a sale during its June 23 meeting.
The county cannot disclose how many bids it has received or if the bidders are residential or golf course developers, Nicole Armendariz, Waukesha County press secretary told the Journal Sentinel. But members of Save Wanaki are asking community members to write or e-mail county officials asking them to only accept a bid from a viable golf course developer.
The decision to potentially accept a bid from a new owner is the latest step in getting the financially stricken golf course out from under the county, the Journal Sentinel reported. Annually, the course had deficits ranging from $41,000 to $243,000 over the last decade and significant infrastructure repairs and upgrades are estimated at more than $645,000, said Dale Shaver, director of the Waukesha County Department of Parks and Land Use.
The course was actually slated to close at the end of the 2019 season after County Executive Paul Farrow did not include funding in the 2020 budget, the Journal Sentinel reported. But after resident protests and a 6,000-signature petition, county supervisors voted to keep the course under county operation for one more year when they passed the 2020 budget in November.
This 148-acre golf course is listed at $1.52 million—about $10,270 per acre—which includes the 18-hole golf course and equipment, maintenance facilities, carts and storage facilities, putting green and clubhouse with pro shop, bar and grill, locker rooms and restrooms, the Journal Sentinel reported.
Armendariz said county officials first sought proposals to lease Wanaki for golf operations to continue with no county financial burdens, the Journal Sentinel reported. She said the county received one response, but county officials rejected it because the proposal wanted a commitment of county funds.
The next step, Armendariz said, is to pursue the sale of Wanaki via a deed restriction, the Journal Sentinel reported. The property will then be operated as a golf course for a four-year term and a minimum purchase price of 80 percent of the highest and best use value.
“We have a fiscal responsibility to our taxpayers to not sell property at an undervalued price,” Armendariz told the Journal Sentinel. If there is no sale by June 30, the county will look to sell the property for the highest price and best use, she said.
According to the Save Wanaki Facebook page, many Wanaki supporters believe a full-price offer is from a housing developer, the Journal Sentinel reported.
“Because the price is 80 percent of the actual ‘best use’ value, a developer is trying to acquire the land for several hundred thousand less of best use value,” said Jonathan LaVoy, a member of Save Wanaki.
LaVoy, however, declined to disclose why the group believes there will be a residential developer, the Journal Sentinel reported.
“Everything is so secretive,” he said.
He told the Journal Sentinel the property is much more attractive to a residential developer. According to the Wanaki Golf Course appraisal report, the land is assessed at $1.1 million as a golf course and $1.9 million for a residential development.
“It is too expensive for a developer to use it as a golf course, but a good deal for a residential developer,” LaVoy said. “It is a flawed process.”
Members of Save Wanaki believe if there is a residential developer, there will be no sustainability for it to be a golf course, the Journal Sentinel reported.
“We believe that this land developer has no intentions to keep the land as a course and will likely run the course into the ground during the four years it is required to remain as a course,” LaVoy said.
He said a residential developer can possibly develop the course at nine holes instead of an 18-hole course while getting other parts of the land ready for a housing development, the Journal Sentinel reported.
“I don’t trust a developer,” LaVoy said. “I don’t think it is appropriate. People don’t want it. The last thing we need is another subdivision.”
LaVoy also cited concerns that the county will not monitor the course when there is a buyer, the Journal Sentinel reported. Therefore, a housing developer may not run it to the best of its ability.
In a June 5 e-mail to the Journal Sentinel, Shaver said, “The county does not anticipate monitoring the golf operations once the property is sold to a private party.”
County Supervisor Timothy Dondlinger, who represents residents near Wanaki Golf Course, told the Journal Sentinel he would like to see a solid bid from a golf developer, or one interested in maintaining it as a golf course for as long as possible.
“People in the county want to see this as a golf course,” Dondlinger said.
The course, which opened in 1970, is home to many clubs, including a 270-member men’s club, a 75-member ladies 18-hole club and a 65-member senior men’s league, the Journal Sentinel reported. Wanaki also serves as the home course for numerous high school golf teams.
“The community has a great golf course,” LaVoy said. “We need to work through this.”
C+RB last reported on Wanaki Golf Course in January 2020.
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