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Board talks golf referendum
Course likely wont appear on July ballot
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Forsyth County News

Commissioners also took the following actions Tuesday:

• Discussed an agreement that will reduce the environmental fines levied on the Overlook, a subdivision on Melody Mizer Lane, by 75 percent. The currently abandoned two-phase subdivision has a former landfill emitting unsafe levels of methane under one phase.

A developer presented the county with a proposal to clean up the area in exchange for a relaxation of fines, estimated to be up to $3 million. Commissioners expressed interest in the proposal, but decided litigation and sewer issues need to be resolved before approval.

• Approved some changes to the soil erosion and sedimentation control ordinance, which will have a final public hearing June 3. The board unanimously approved some tweaks.

Commissioners also reduced the fine for soil erosion from the recently approved $5,000 per acre back to $3,000, but with a stipulation that the director of engineering could increase the amount if needed. The measure passed by a 3-2 vote, with Chairman Charles Laughinghouse and Commissioner Jim Boff opposed.

• Appointed the Republican Party nominee, Douglas Sorrells, to the board of elections to replace Brant Meadows, who recently resigned in order to run for the board of commissioners.

Note: All votes were 5-0 unless otherwise noted.

-Alyssa LaRenzie 

Putting the Lanier Golf Course out to a vote popped up and was pushed back Tuesday during a Forsyth County Board of Com-
missioners meeting.

Commissioners Patrick Bell and Brian Tam added an item to the work session agenda, proposing a voter referendum to purchase the 172-acre course for public use.

Commissioner Jim Boff opted to postpone the item, with support from Commissioner Jim Harrell.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said a postponement could quash the chances of the referendum making it on the July ballot.

“If you’re going to try to put this on the July ballot, obviously the delay will effect that,” Jarrard said. “It’s very tight even now.”

Bell proposed asking residents whether they’d like to see bond money made available to buy the course.

Boff, whose District 5 includes the course, and Harrell have proposed the county buy the course for $12 million from owners Jack Manton and George Bagley Jr.

The county would lease it for 99 years to a company that would maintain and operate it as a golf course.

So far, Affiniti Golf Partners and Sequoia Golf and Canongate Golf Clubs have expressed public interest in the plan.

Affiniti has offered to pay $3 million of the total and Sequoia officials have said they’ll give $3.5 million.

Opponents have taken exception to the deal’s price tag, citing tax filings indicating the site may be worth far less as a golf course.

The issue has been a “contentious” one among the board, Bell said, which has debated the matter for years.

“I know we’re a representative of the people but obviously the five votes can’t seem to get a consensus on it,” Bell said. “The best thing to do to put this thing to bed is to let the voters tell us ‘Here’s what we’d like’.”

If voters approved a bond, taxes likely would go up to pay for it. Bonds are typically covered through one-cent sales taxes, although they can be paid for through property taxes.

“I don’t think this is a good time to talk about raising taxes,” Boff said of his decision to postpone the matter.

He also said that no other purchased properties have needed a citizen vote, though some voters have already been asked about the golf course.

The question of purchasing the property was presented on the July 2008 Democratic primary election ballot through a non-binding inquiry.

Nearly 75 percent of the 1,446 votes supported the purchase of a golf course for public use at that time.

Bell noted that the issue has not been presented to the county’s Republican voters, which represent a majority of the county.

“No other property can say that it actually had some kind of a vote for it,” Boff said. “I don’t know why this one should be treated any differently.”

Complicating the issue, the course is also at the center of a lawsuit between the owners and the county, set to be heard in late June.

Manton and Bagley sought legal action in 2007 after the commission denied their request to rezone the course from agricultural to a master planned district.

They planned to sell the site, contingent upon the rezoning, to a developer who wanted to build a 772-unit residential development with a 300-unit continuing care retirement community.