Monday, February 5, 2018

Guest View: Mike Zinkin ~ The impact of the HSL Contract

Town Council never reviewed the Community Center/Golf Courses Purchase Agreement
In December 2014, the negotiated purchase agreement between HSL (Humberto Lopez) and the Town was delegated to former Town Manager, Greg Caton. Former Town Attorney, Tobin Sidles, was also on the team. During the process, three council members (Bill Garner, Brendan Burns, and myself) requested that the Council have a chance to review the agreement prior to the closing of escrow.

The Council majority (Hiremath-Hornat-Snider-Waters) did not think this was necessary because [paraphrasing], "We pay these people (Caton and Sidles) because of their expertise and who are we to interfere?" The agreement is a 585 page PDF file that appears to have been written entirely by the HSL team as it is heavily slanted in favor of the seller.

Below are excerpts from the self-serving contract:

Agreement: The Town can never manage golf because the agreement states that, "the Purchaser (Oro Valley) shall not terminate the Management Agreement unless…Troon is replaced with a professional national or regional golf management company with prior experience managing both municipal and resort courses."

Impact: The Town cannot reduce expenses by managing the golf courses themselves.

Agreement: The El Conquistador resort gets priority golf and tennis reservations.  "Resort owner and its hotel management agent shall be permitted to book reservations for the La Canada Course and at all tennis facilities for its hotel guests ....which allows the Resort owner to reserve golf and tennis for Resort guests on a priority basis (provided the booking is made at least two weeks in advance)."

Impact: The El Conquistador Resort gets priority tee times over golf members and outside players, even when resort guest rounds are comped. Golf Members are paying for resort guests to get priority tee times.  Taxpayers (you) are paying for other people to enjoy free golf!

Agreement: Remember when the Mayor (and others) used scare tactics to convince citizens that if the Town did not purchase this property, there was the potential for other development on the golf courses?  This is not true.  The agreement states: "The Resort Course and the La Canada Course shall be deed-restricted so that such courses are used as golf courses, open space, or recreational amenities, the Tennis Facilities for at least 28 courts shall be deed-restricted and may only be used and operated as tennis courses and related uses, if the Town ceases to operate the Canada Course or Tennis Facilities, then the Resort Owner shall have the right to lease such facilities from the Town for a 50-year term.” [$10,000 per year for 50 years.]

Impact: Residential and/or commercial development is not permitted on the Resort (Pusch Ridge) and La Canada course. A minimum of 28 tennis courts must remain in operation even if the Town is losing money on them.

Agreement: The agreement states that "as long as the Resort Property is used as a resort or hotel, at the election of the resort owner, the name of one or both of the two 18-hole Golf Courses SHALL contain the words "El Conquistador."

Impact: The Town must provide free advertising for the El Conquistador Resort.

Agreement: The agreement states that "if, at any time the Resort Course and or/La Canada Course become a discontinued Facility, and is utilized as open space or a recreational amenity instead of a Golf Course Facility, then, provided the Resort owner does not elect to enter into a Discontinued Facility Lease for all or any portion of such Discontinued Facility, the Town SHALL maintain, repair, and landscape such open space and/or recreational amenity, in a manner that controls dust, removes litter and debris, and landscapes and maintains the open space in a manner compatible with the operation of the Resort as a first class resort property."

Impact: If the Town discontinues the golf facilities, the Town is still obligated to pay for maintenance, repair, and landscaping of those grounds if the Resort does not exercise its option to lease the courses. The Town must continue to maintain the property for the holes south of Lambert even though it is not Town property and is owned by The Village of La Canada HOA.

A contract by HSL for HSL
It’s clear that this contract was written “by HSL for HSL” as everything in the contract is written to protect HSL. This is a legal document, signed by the former town manager. Hence, we are stuck with it.

Nice job, Mr. Caton, Mr. Sidles, and those four members of the Council who did not desire to review the Agreement prior to the close of escrow. Too bad the mayor and his cohorts did not desire to "get into the weeds.” During the last Council meeting that Mr. Caton attended as our Town Manager, the mayor stated that Mr. Caton "always hit it out of the park.” After reading this agreement, one might wonder -- for whose team was Mr. Caton playing? What happened to Oro Valley Residents being at the top of the Town of Oro Valley Organizational Chart?

The REVISED Town of Oro Valley Organizational Chart