OVA Reveals Intent to Buy Golf Courses

(Updated July 2 with new dates for ballot mailing, vote count.)

Al Haggerty

The Oakmont Village Association board of directors is submitting a letter of intent to purchase the two Oakmont golf courses pending membership approval for what board president Steve Spanier called “a very fair price.” Ballots will be mailed July 8 and voting will end after the required 30-day voting period. The asking price from the Oakmont Golf Club is $4.8 million.

The ballot will ask OVA members to authorize a dues increase of up to $23 a month, which would bring the dues from the current $75 to $98, or $196 a month for a two-person household. This would include roughly $6 for OVA operations, roughly $7 for a 15-year golf acquisition loan and roughly $10 to build up a golf reserve fund that will help ensure ongoing financial stability. This reserve fund will be capped, so if OVA’s operating partner turns around the club’s financial situation, this $10 per month dues contribution could be reduced or eliminated in future years.

Balloting is by mail, with the votes to be counted Thursday, Aug. 8 at 1 p.m. in the Berger Center. The results will be announced at 4 p.m. that day in the Berger.

The board approved the letter of intent in an executive session immediately following a town hall meeting June 25 which drew an overflow crowd of nearly 500 to the Berger Center. The board voted unanimously to approve sending the letter. Board members Jeff Marzak and Marianne Neufeld were absent from both sessions because of previous commitments. Sending a letter of intent is the first step in a due diligence process that could take several months.

While the OVA offer for the golf courses was not revealed, board Vice President Tom Kendrick told the town hall meeting preceding the executive session: “We have no intention of being the highest bidder.”

The town hall opened with a detailed Power Point presentation by Kendrick which reviewed the present status of the golf course, the options facing the OVA, and the effect on membership dues. He said of almost 300 emails received by the OVA nearly two-thirds, or 64%, supported purchasing the golf course. He said 16% opposed the purchase, “sometimes vehemently,” with the opinion of the rest (20%) “not clear.”

One option for operating the golf courses if OVA makes the purchase would be to lease the courses and establish a tenant/landlord relationship, with the tenant assuming all operating risks. Ken Arimitsu, a broker with 23 years experience in the sale of about 130 golf courses and hired to represent the OVA, said OVA is now in negotiation with a company for a 30-year lease with the company providing $1 million up front.

Director Heidi Klyn said 99 percent of golf courses sold nationwide in the last 10 years were bought by developers. She said there is no problem with having city planners change the zoning at the request of developers. Opponents challenged her position, citing a number of “hurdles” any developer would face, including changing the city general plan.

Klyn said if OVA doesn’t purchase the courses the land “will be out of our reach forever.” Directors Noel Lyons and Carolyn Bettencourt supported Klyn. Bettencourt said we “can’t risk losing” this land. “The only answer is to purchase it. We need to do this.”

While some residents questioned any purchase and challenged details in Kendrick’s presentation during the member forum, the majority of residents who spoke supported the purchase and audience reaction appeared to heavily favor a purchase.

Dave Stein, addressing the issue of how the golf courses affect Oakmont property values, said it would be “grossly unfair” to charge the same dues for triplexes located a mile away from the golf course and for far more expensive homes bordering the golf courses. He called for a “proportional benefit” and Kendrick said the board was looking into the issue. Lynda Oneto questioned several aspects of the presentation.

Spanier said the ballot package will include information on the board’s decision.