OGC/OVA Town Hall Meeting

  • Staff Report

A Town Hall Meeting with the title “Economic Benefits of the Oakmont Golf Club to the Community of Oakmont” was held Monday evening, February 26, 2018 at the East Recreation Center for a standing room only audience. Many were turned away at the door and several had to view the proceedings from the small room to the side of the main auditorium, where hearing the speakers was difficult. 

This event was sponsored by the Oakmont Golf Club and OVA.  Representatives from the Golf Club included OGC President Barbara Robinson, board members Rick Warfel and Neil Huber, John Theilade, General Manager and Director of Golf, and Maintenance Manager Andy Trinkino.  OVA directors present were Greg Goodwin and Kathleen Connelly.  Local realtors Alan Scott of McBride Realty and Randy Ruark of Century 21 were also seated at the dais and spoke during the presentation.

Although billed as a town hall meeting, this was mainly a presentation by the Golf Club outlining what they viewed as the economic benefits to Oakmont of the golf courses and the Quail Inn.  The Oakmont Directors made only a few comments and no agreement or partnership with the Golf Club has been agreed to by the OVA BOD at this time.  The Golf Club promised there would be meetings with the new OVA BOD in the upcoming months.

A copy of a letter from OVA Attorney Malcolm Manwell was placed on every seat prior to the meeting and was read during the presentation.

Robinson began her opening remarks by saying that the OGC “was not looking for a bailout” but “support from all the OVA residents to financially assist the golf club in its efforts to maintain sustainability.”  She continued: “Please know that the financial details relating to the Oakmont Golf Club operations will be discussed with the OVA Board of Directors once the opportunity arises that we engage in formal talks.  The entire financial details are not a part of the town hall meeting presentations, nor will they be.”

In reference to OGC debt, she said:  “We do have a debt, which was refinanced in 2016 saving the club about $12,500 a month.  We do not have a balloon payment, which I know some people thought that there was.  We maintain a reserve account which gets used at times for operating expenses during wet winters, when outside play and events are low.”

Golf Club income is from member dues, green fees from outside play, weddings, banquets, tournaments and member donations.

The slide presentation centered on five economic highlights viewed as beneficial to Oakmont:  providing storm drainage and waterways; providing 250 acres of open space with the two golf courses; a golf course recreational amenity; the Quail Inn serving as a “social hub” for Oakmont; and “lifestyle” benefits.

The golf course shows a 60% use by the public with 350 memberships and 400 members.  The Quail Inn hosts parties, banquets, weddings, concerts and charitable events.  In all, with a $4 million operating budget, the golf course employs 50 people and pays sales taxes and property taxes.  (The entire slide show presentation can be found at the Oakmont Golf Club’s website:  http://www.oakmontgc.com under News and Specials.)

Realtors Alan Scott and Randy Ruark stressed the economic benefits for homes, especially those along the golf course.  Scott said that if the golf courses fail “our property values will be extremely depressed until it gets resolved, and that could be years, if not decades.”   Ruark claimed that Oakmont had a “free lunch for about 35 years” subsidized by the members of the golf club.  “Five or ten dollars a month is so little to add to our super-low dues in perpetuity to maintain open space,” she said, adding, “we are helping to maintain the open space that they have been giving us a free ride on for years.”

Warnings were given that if the golf club were to fail there could be dire results such as possible home development and unkempt golf grounds (such as those at now-closed Petaluma’s Adobe Creek Golf course).

An economic analysis was presented by Rick Warfel.  Using figures provided by McBride Realty he stated that the median Oakmont home value in 2017 was $664,000.  Referring to figures provided by the National Golf Foundation, it was assumed that the average impact of a golf course raised a home’s value by 20%.  Under this analysis the average impact of the golf course to each home in Oakmont is $133,000, leading to an overall value of the golf course to Oakmont of $426 million (3,200 homes x $133,000).  He also mentioned golf course “view premiums” and the value of the golf course as a fire break.

In addition, Warfel said that if Oakmont was to enter into some sort of partnership with the Golf Club, there could be three possible dog park sites and discounts on food and beverage at the Quail Inn.  He used an example whereby a fee (dues increase) of $5/per person/per month would raise $284,000 each year for the Golf Club.

Manager John Theilade then outlined steps that could be taken to improve the operation of the Quail Inn and it’s food service.  He said that they have been without a chef for four months and that a new chef, Leslie Sutter, has been hired and will start on March 7.  Service will be improved under a training program in use by management company Kemper Sports.

Describing marketing efforts, Theilade went into great detail in reading two single-spaced pages that were projected on the screen.  Suffice it to say that the club’s marketing extends to local print media, golf periodicals, radio, direct mail and the internet.

He mentioned that golf rounds were up in January and February by a large amount year over year because of the good weather and that tournament sales in the last four years have increased by $50,000.  In addition, wedding sales increased from 26 to 58 events in one year’s time under new Marketing Director Heather Peterson.  Special events (weddings, banquets, golf tournaments and the like) generated around $2 million in revenue in 2017.

A question and answer session with the public was held after the presentation with a wide variety of comments.
Those generally in favor of assisting the Golf Club made these points:
–Homes were purchased here in Oakmont because of the golf course.
–The golf course provides great views and increases property values.
–Residents enjoy this golfing amenity within Oakmont.
–A short infusion of cash may turn the club around.
–Instead of requiring an annual membership, the Golf Club should accommodate Oakmonters who travel a lot and are gone–allow for a flexible membership of one month, 3 month, or 6 months.
–Get more creative with attracting golfers.
Those more critical of assisting the Golf Club offered these comments:
Two former OVA Board members questioned the legality of any arrangement, whereby Oakmont, a 501(c)(7) nonprofit Social Club could buy into any for-profit entity such as the golf course, saying our CC&Rs do not support this.
–Homes were purchased here in Oakmont for reasons other than the golf course
–Nationwide statistics show golf membership in decline.  Aren’t we propping up a failing recreation?
–Golf courses don’t have to fall into disrepair, there are other scenarios besides doom and gloom.
–Many Oakmonters cannot afford a dues increase to help a private business.
–There should be an “opt in or opt out” system created for those who want to donate to support the golf courses–not a mandatory dues increase.