Monday, March 11, 2019

Highlights of the February 20th Town Council "Listening Session" regarding the golf courses

El Con Golf Members and residents living along the town-owned golf courses spoke during the Listening Session at the February 20th council meeting. Below are some highlights of the arguments they presented for why they believe that the Town should not sell any of the golf courses or repurpose them into green space and walking trails, etc.

Comments were strong on emotion and weak on facts.

“A lot of people who moved here are retired and they need a golf course…The point is, we bought it and the majority of people wanted the golf course. If we’re going to kill it or change it materially, I think you should put it back to a vote of the public at the next election and let it be decided by the voters because we voted for it.”

Fact: No one “needs” a golf course. A golf course is a want, not a necessity. Additionally, the majority of Oro Valley residents did not want these golf courses. When the Town surveyed the residents in 2014 about what recreational amenities they would like the town to provide, golf came in #33 out of #34 possible choices.

Fact: The citizens did not vote to purchase the Community Center and Golf Courses. The “vote” was made by just four members of the previous Town Council; Mayor Hiremath and Councilmembers Hornat, Snider, and Waters.

Fact: Many citizens voiced their opposition to the purchase of the El Con Community Center and Golf Courses in letters to the editor, in emails to the former council, and in speeches they gave at the podium during Town Council meetings prior to the vote being taken (see below). The Hiremath Majority-4 did not listen.

Fact: On December 17, 2014 (the night the vote was taken to purchase the El Con property), 39 residents spoke at the podium and 65% of them were against the purchase. Additionally, 75-80% of the emails received by council in the week prior to the vote were also against the purchase.

”Do the due diligence. Look at what may happen to property values should you sell both courses.”

Fact: Hiremath and his Majority-4 council did not do their due diligence prior to voting to approve this purchase. They voted to approve the purchase without ever even seeing the contract between HSL and Troon, a contract which the Town would inherit upon purchase. The Town Council did not receive the 90+ page appraisal until about 4 hours prior to the meeting. They also never saw the rounds that the Hilton had experienced and they never saw the purchase agreement until after it was signed.

“Whatever you choose to do, you have to include input and participation from the homeowners, not just some group that represents them, but you need to talk to every single one or you really haven’t done what’s right…You already have a source of revenue. It isn’t that you’re going to run out of money.”

Fact: The Town has already held two private meetings for residents living along the golf courses and one private meeting for the Golf Members.

Two Special Meetings for Residents living along the golf courses

May 4, 2017: Q&A Session/Workshop at the Gaslight Theater
December 12, 2017: Town Council Chambers

One Special Meeting for Golf Members

December 13, 2017: Sunset Room of the Community Center

Fact: The revenues are not meeting the expenses.

“I believe that the golf course and community center adds value to our properties, it adds value to the community, and it is a justifiable expense…If we get rid of the golf courses, the property values will fall for the [home] owners. And of course, if that goes down, then the property taxes will go down. The revenue will go down on these houses for the town.”

Fact: Oro Valley does not have a property tax. Our property tax is paid to Pima County. If a person’s property tax goes down due to their home value going down, it will not affect Oro Valley’s revenue. Our revenues are derived from sales tax, State shared revenues, utility tax, franchise tax, bed tax on hotel rooms.

Fact: There is a misconception that property values will decline if golf does not continue. Green spaces and linear parks will not reduce values. A home's value is actually based on many things. In fact, university researchers have found a number of variables that affect home prices.

Proximity to Parks & Open Spaces ranked as number two. A desirable public park or other recreational open space boosts the property value of nearby homes by 8%-20%. One study looked at 16,400 home sales within 1,500 feet of 193 public parks in Portland, Oregon and found the following boosts to home values:

Natural areas:      $10,648
Golf courses:       $8,849
Specialty parks:   $5,657
Urban parks:        $1,214

(Source: Realtors Houselogic and Take Back OV)

"I believe the benefits of the golf course to the community outweigh these relatively small monetary costs."

Fact: $10 million in losses is not a relatively small cost and these losses do not include the much needed capital improvements, including making the Community Center ADA compliant. There have been at least $6 million in “promised” capital improvements that have yet to be implemented. Due to the continued losses, the Town is now considering bonding to make these improvements.

"I am in favor of keeping all 36 holes. We require all 36 holes in order to make the money that we need, especially Amphi [schools] to put on their Project Grad."

Fact: Project Graduation is a valuable program, but taxpayers shouldn’t continue to suffer millions in losses for the sake of one tournament. The Project Graduation golf tournament can be held utilizing one course (144 golfers). If more money is needed, they can have another type of fundraiser and more local businesses can be asked to contribute.