HI Board votes to build golf driving range

Monday, May 1, 2006

HOLIDAY ISLAND -- Following a presentation of a Limited Environmental Assessment (LEA) to the Holiday Island Board of Commissioners April 24, the board voted to go ahead with a $100,000 golf driving range project.

Earl Carter of Mathis, Carter & Associates (MCA) presented the LEA, stating there will be no negative visual, environmental or historical heritage impacts.

The project area, located in a valley parcel below the #1 fairway of the 18-hole golf course, comprises 50 acres of undeveloped land. The range itself would be roughly 100 by 300 yards long at the most, although as plotted on on aerial map, the project looks to be 75 by 175 yards.

MCA solicited comments from the Arkansans Department of Heritage and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Fish and Wildlife stated there are two endangered species located in Carroll County, the Gray Bat (a cave-dweller) and the Scaleshell, a mussel, but "the project is not expected to adversely affect the listed species, unless a cave is found within the proposed project area."

Carter said these species had not been determined to be on the 50 acres in question.

Carter said because of the size of the project, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality will require filing of a Stormwater Prevention Plan.

"There is a discharge stream on the downside of where the driving range would be," he said, "but it would only affect a small part of it. We have to put measures in place before construction begins."

Commissioner Ken Mills asked about costs.

"There would be a combination of in-house labor and subcontracted backhoe work," said District Manager Kevin Crosson. "We would save money by doing it in stages." Crosson said the staff portion of the work would be done during the off-season.

Golf Pro Barry Storie said his estimate, which started at $100,000 but was then reduced to $80,000, was now back up to $100,000. He said 55 golfers have verbally agreed to purchase range cards at $150 apiece, for an income of $8,000. He recommended raising guest fees and holding three golf tournaments each year ongoing, which would raise $10,000 toward the project.

The first year's cost would be $25,000, not including the $6,000 for the LEA.

"We can raise the remaining $75,000 over three years with golf tournaments, guest fees and range income each year," he said. He recommended allowing public use of the range in the afternoons when property owners tend not to play. Crosson said that departure from the district's strictures against public use "would have to be evaluated."

Under the new plan, the service road from Thunderbird Drive will not have to be paved. A cart path coming off the #1 fairway would be built.

This year, site preparation would begin with earthwork and plantings. Next year, the cart path would be paved with chip-and-seal. In 2008, the cart paths would be asphalted.

"My biggest concern is, will the members support it?" Mills asked. "We can't keep subsidizing this golf course."

Storie said the men's and women's golf leagues have given about 85 percent support.

Property owner Janet Hamann and others spoke against the project, saying petitions with 187 signatures against it had been submitted, not because people were against a driving range but because there are so many other needs in Holiday Island that are not getting funded or have been delayed.

"Not every issue needs a vote of the people," said property owner Ed Roberston. "The golf course is what brought you to this community, not the water and sewer system," to which property owner Kay Janky, a golfer, objected.

She also asked how many trees would be cut.

Crosson answered the equivalent of 10 cleared house lots.

With Commissioner Bill Branum, who has spoken against the project in the past, absent, the remaining commissioners voted unanimously to proceed with the project.

In other business, the board:

* Tabled Amendment #8 to Reg. 26, on golf league sanctioning, after a lengthy discussion of whether the proposed guidelines will solve the problem of fairness to property owners who may desire morning tee times on Thursdays and Fridays but who do not habitually play golf. The board will attempt to make a decision by September.

* Approved on first reading Reg. 36, Promotion and Protection of Holiday Island Trees.

* Approved on first reading Reg. 37, The Use of Fireworks in Holiday Island.

* Approved the 2006 Road Improvement Program.

* Heard Crosson's monthly report, which included a report on completed plans for the Leatherwood walking trail, a report on the status of the wastewater treatment plant project and a report on an upcoming meeting of the Arkansas Coalition of Planned Communities. Suburban improvements districts and property owner associations will attempt to change state legislation to allow them to legislate animal control.

* Heard the financial report for March: total assessments collected year-to-date are $352,000. Operating income of $460,000 versus expenses of $681,000 leave a net loss of $221,000, minus $174,000 capital expenses, for an overall net loss of $395,000. The district has $23,404,197 in assets.

The next district meetings scheduled are a work session on May 15 and a voting meeting on May 22, both at 9 a.m. at the district office at 110 Woodsdale Drive.

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