HI golf committee weighs definition of 'semi-private'

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

HOLIDAY ISLAND -- A meeting of the Holiday Island Golf Operations Ad Hoc Committee saw its far-reaching agenda shrink dramatically on Thursday, May 27, when members decided that a better and more consistent definition of terms was needed before the agenda could be pursued without further confusing the golfing public.

The Holiday Island Eighteen Hole and Nine Hole golf courses are referred to as private courses in the district's regulations but they now function as semi-private courses, according to golf professional Barry Storie. Buyers of property in Holiday Island historically have been attracted by the idea that their ownership would assure them access to private courses. However, a decline in the popularity of golf and the rising cost of just about everything has made it a very expensive amenity to maintain.

It has been estimated that golf operations are now costing the district $300,000 each year. The golf courses were never intended to make money but in earlier years they lost less and could be counted on to attract more property buyers. When the $300,000 is mentioned it is often followed by predictions of possible bankruptcy sometime in the next decade. The Golf Operations Ad Hoc Committee was formed to study the problem and to make recommendations to the Board of Commissioners.

It is almost certain that none of the solutions that have been discussed, both by the committee and the public in general, would please everyone. They include raising assessment rates for property owners, making the golf courses public, marketing them more aggressively, converting them to parks or just shutting them down (easily the least popular idea among committee members). Committee member Nola Banister said, "If you shut down the golf courses there would be a mass exodus. You would have a big patch of weeds through the middle of Holiday Island. I don't think we should even consider it."

Committee member Harold Craig disagreed, saying that the committee was formed to study all the options. Craig soon found himself having to explain, more than once, that he was not in favor of shutting down golf courses or any other amenities, but that the committee should do its job and look at all possibilities. District manager Lawrence Blood asked the committee to table further discussion of any shutdown. Blood said the current golf management staff is making headway toward reducing costs and that he expects to see more progress.

Before in-depth discussion of the options could begin it was decided that a firm definition of the term semi-private should be put forth to the BOC, the public and the golfing community. Storie was charged with the task of putting the definition in writing before the next committee meeting that is to be held at 9 a.m. Monday, June 13, in the district office. The committee's agenda included setting a deadline for coming up with a public opinion survey but that was postponed until the next meeting.

Blood also reminded the committee that any recommendation that they make to the BOC will probably take at least two months before a vote can be taken.

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