The Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to purchase the 157-acre, 18-hole golf course in a two-step process. Under the plan, the Trust for Public Land has signed an agreement to buy the golf course, and the county will then purchase the golf course from the trust, but it is contingent on securing $4.94 million from state and private sources.
The San Geronimo (Calif.) Golf Course will close under its current management on December 31, but whether golf will ever be played at that site again remains up in the air, the San Raphael, Calif.-based Marin Independent Journal reported.
Marin Supervisor Dennis Rodoni and several county officials met with the Independent Journal editorial board last week to discuss the county’s plans to acquire the golf course and provide a picture of how they see things progressing from here.
On November 14, the Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to purchase the 157-acre, 18-hole golf course in a two-step process that involves the Trust for Public Land. The Trust for Public Land has signed an option-to-purchase agreement to buy the golf course for a maximum of $8.85 million and expects to close escrow on the purchase on January 4, the Independent Journal reported.
The plan is for the county to in turn purchase the golf course from the trust. That commitment, however, is contingent on the county and the trust succeeding in securing $4.94 million from state and private sources, the Independent Journal reported.
A “last hurrah” invitational tournament for regular members and employees will be held on December 29, followed by a banquet, said Assistant Manager Chris Bright. “I’ve got 140 to 150 people signed up for that already,” Bright said.
About two weeks after supervisors approved the purchase, a group of more than 40 Marin residents, calling themselves the San Geronimo Advocates, filed suit to block the purchase. They are asserting that the county’s decision to purchase the golf course before doing an environmental analysis violated the California Environmental Quality Act, the Independent Journal reported.
On Thursday, Riley Hurd, San Geronimo Advocates’ attorney, and Marin County Counsel Brian Washington confirmed that they have entered into an agreement that provides that the county will not close escrow on its purchase of the golf course until after the San Geronimo Advocates’ motion for a preliminary injunction is decided in mid-March or early April, the Independent Journal reported.
“That will give us a first look at the court’s opinion of this lawsuit,” Hurd said.
“The county is continuing with all other acquisition activities per the purchase agreement in the interim,” Washington said.
Marin County Parks Director Max Korten said he hopes to issue a request for proposals on January 5 for a new operator to reopen the golf course and manage it while the county consults with the community and decides how the property should be used in the future. “It’s our number one priority to get that out,” Korten said.
Marin County Administrator Matthew Hymel said if a new operator is found the golf course likely won’t reopen until the spring, the Independent Journal reported.
“As much as I hate to see it close, golf operators don’t want to take it on in the middle of winter when they have their worst performance,” Rodoni said.
County officials previously tried to find someone to lease the golf course from the county during this interim period. They spoke with the current managers of the golf course; Tayman Park Golf Group, which manages McInnis Park Golf Center in San Rafael; and others, but Hymel said no one was willing to assume the financial risk, the Independent Journal reported.
“They were anticipating almost a best-case scenario of $250,000 to $300,000 in losses over a two-year period,” Hymel said.
San Geronimo Golf Course spends $250,000 a year just on water for its greens, Hymel said. McInnis Park Golf Center’s financial success has been largely due to the popularity of its clubhouse, which features a restaurant and meeting rooms. “Golf courses are closing down throughout the United States because they aren’t making a profit,” Hymel said.
This new request for proposals will likely include a financial incentive for an operator to take on the job, Korten said. “We would spend approximately $140,000 a year maintaining the site without golf,” Korten said.
Critics of the purchase have objected to the fact that the grants the county hopes to secure to pay for the golf course will mandate that the property be reserved as open space or park land, the Independent Journal reported.
Hymel, however, said the county will use $1.4 million from its general fund to pay for the 22-acre section of the property where the clubhouse is located so its future use will remain discretionary, the Independent Journal reported.
Marin County fire Chief Jason Weber is interested in the clubhouse parcel as a possible site for relocating the Woodacre fire station. But Weber said, “My bosses have made it clear. We’re going through the community planning process. This is an option that needs to be discussed and vetted. Ultimately the community will decide.”
Regarding critics who said the golf course provides a critical fire break, Weber said, “The risk is really minimal and can be reduced even further with proper planning.”
The county’s use of grant money would probably preclude a proposal to build a wastewater recycling unit at the site, at least at the location previously discussed on the banks of San Geronimo Creek. The unit is seen as a way of addressing failing septic systems in Woodacre and San Geronimo Flats, the Independent Journal reported.
Korten has already started reaching out to individuals and groups, including critics of the purchase, who are likely to participate in the public discussion of how the property should be used, the Independent Journal reported.
“There is a shared appreciation and love for the character of this community and a desire to protect that character,” Korten said.