The 18-hole Sequim, Wash. property is debt-free and not near bankruptcy, but may still need to borrow to meet payroll and other expenses, its Board President wrote to members. The SunLand Homeowners Association, SLOA, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, plans to discuss possible options, including the possibility of contracting services with the club.
Leaders of Sunland Golf & Country Club in Sequim, Wash. say the 18-hole course and its cafe and pro shop continue to hit hard times, reported the Sequim Gazette.
Bruce Mullikin, Board President of the club, wrote in the August club’s newsletter that before the end of the fiscal year, the club will “need to borrow significant funds to meet our payroll and other recurring expenses,” reported the Gazette.
In an interview at the course, the Gazette reported, Mullikin said the club is debt-free and not near bankruptcy, but that “finances of the club are on shaky ground” and “just uncertain.”
Board members with the SunLand Homeowners Association (SLOA), a 501(c)3 nonprofit, plan to discuss possible options, including the possibility of contracting services with the club, reported the Gazette.
The Gazette reported that Mullikin said he’s working on a projection for the club’s year-end finances for the meeting.
He wrote in the club’s July newsletter that golfers investigated numerous options to help the club, such as increasing annual dues, increasing/decreasing existing services, and selling the club, reported the Gazette.
Mullikin then wrote in August’s newsletter that options remained mostly unchanged, with an option to negotiate a “lease option” contract with a buyer, assessing membership fees, or even “begging for donations from past and current members,” the Gazette reported.
Fred Smith, Board President of the Sunland Homeowners Association, said the prompt for a homeowners’ special meeting arose once he heard an offer was on the table to sell the course, reported the Gazette.
“Like a lot of golf courses, they’re financially strapped because of membership,” Smith said. “New membership is growing, but old membership is dying.”
When he joined Sunland G&CC in 1994, Mullikin said, the club had nearly 400 members. Since then, however, it has lost members, despite dropping a $10,000 initiation fee, he said.
“We need players more than initiation fees,” Mullikin said.
Current membership fees range from $1,200-$6,000 a year, reported the Gazette.
Public golf play on Saturdays and Sundays hasn’t been as big of a draw either, Mullikin said.
Smith said he sees a few options for Sunland’s 920-plus homes and its many homeowners. One of them is to enter into a contract with the club for landscaping and maintenance at about $118 more per member a year; currently, homeowners pay $232 annually for dues for landscaping, access to Sunland’s pool and other amenities, reported the Gazette.
“We are not proposing subsidizing the golf course,” Smith said. “It’s a contract with them for services rendered. It could be a limited agreement no longer than five years.”
If that increase was approved, Mullikin said, it would bring in about $108,000 more a year for the club through services, reported the Gazette.
Homeowners, however, may not favor a landscaping/maintenance contract, reported the Gazette.
A new annual dues per home of $300 was proposed (up from $195) between 2008-2010 to help the course with maintenance for five years. Residents contested the increase for various reasons—mostly tied to legalities, following lawyers’ advice citing a conflict of interest between the two boards, reported the Gazette.
Brian Bailey, a former SLOA Board and club Board member at different times, said at least 10 percent of homeowners signed a petition asking for a vote on the proposal in a special meeting, reported the Gazette.
Following legal counsel, Bailey said the SLOA Board asked the homeowners to withdraw their petition, and they did. No vote was taken, he said.
Afterward, some Sunland residents said the disagreement continues to be a rift between neighbors, reported the Gazette.
The Gazette reported that Lloyd Taylor, a Sunland homeowner but not a golf club member, said any agreement potentially made between the two associations remains a conflict of interest. Any Board members who are golf club members “would benefit more than I and any other member of the homeowners would,” Taylor said.
“Being a member of the golf club, anyone on the homeowners Board should be abstaining from it, because they have a conflict of interest,” Taylor added.
State law prevents a 501(c)3 like SLOA providing funds going to the club, Taylor said, because its taxes would change and the homeowners’ Board wouldn’t be covered by its insurance any more, reported the Gazette.
David Babow, a Sunland homeowner and non-golfer, agrees with Taylor that state code prevents the associations from partnering in this capacity, reported the Gazette.
Babow, a member of The SunLand Facts group opposed to the previous fee increase, said paperwork showed an overwhelming majority of homeowners were against an increase, reported the Gazette.
“Almost every person, [like] widows living on Social Security, don’t want to pay extra,” Babow said.
“For me, it’s not the money,” he said. “It’s the principle. It rubs me the wrong way they want me to pay more.”
Golf clubs around the world, including Scotland, are struggling and/or closing, Babow noted. “Not that many people are interested in the sport, even in its native country,” he said. “Why should 900-plus people pay for [the golfers]? It’s not fair and it doesn’t make sense. They wouldn’t put one penny down for me to help fix my boat.”
Mullikin said the current effort to seek support is not the same as the 2010 proposal, reported the Gazette.
“Instead of dumping something on the people, we’re communicating it,” he said. “If the golf course is sold or goes under, it’s going to affect everyone adversely.”
Home values could drop if the course fails, Mullikin noted, but with help from homeowners he sees it as “win-win for everyone,” reported the Gazette.
“Any money would go towards the current need, maintaining the beauty of the community,” he said.
Babow disagrees that property values could decline with no golf course, and that the greens could be open green spaces because homeowners are not allowed to walk on the course, reported the Gazette.
“That’d be a cost I’d be willing to pay to walk on,” Babow said.
Smith said homeowners often ask to walk on the course but for liability reasons they are not allowed, reported the Gazette.
With a possible contract between the associations, he said the green spaces would be better taken care of, reported the Gazette.
“We could have a great walking space in the area that’s beneficial to everyone,” Smith said.
Taylor said he doesn’t have anything against the golfers, but maintains there is a conflict of interest, reported the Gazette.
“I do not want to bring this to a lawsuit,” he said. “The golf course will lose all its options. I’d rather not see that.”
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