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Golf details presented at meeting
Boff defends county purchase proposal
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Forsyth County News
Residents packed into a local school cafeteria Thursday night to voice concerns and support for a proposal that Forsyth County purchase Lanier Golf Course.

During a town hall meeting at Mashburn Elementary School, Forsyth County Commissioner Jim Boff presented what he said was a “winning solution.”

The course is in District 5, which Boff represents.

Boff and Commissioner Jim Harrell have negotiated a deal with Affiniti Golf Partners to purchase the course from owners Jack Manton and George Bagley Jr. for $12 million.

According to the proposal, the county would contribute $9 million and Affiniti would pay $3 million. As a result, the county would lease the course to Affiniti for 99 years.

“[Affiniti would] be responsible for the maintenance, upkeep, profit and loss,” Boff said.

He also said the deal would save 20 to 40 jobs and bring in about $140,000 in annual sales tax revenues. Affiniti has also offered to spend about $600,000 on improvements to the site.

“This is a winning solution for a deserving property in a deserving district and good for Forsyth,” Boff said. “The county, in my opinion, must buy Lanier Golf Club with a partner to operate it.”

Boff contends District 5 deserves its share of the $100 million parks, recreation and green space bond approved by voters in 2008.

The county has already spent $33 million of the $36 million set aside from the bond for the purchase of green space.

Boff explained that about 55 percent of the money has been spent on property in District 2, with 43 percent going to District 4 and less than 1 percent being spent in District 5.

He said the county’s share of the money to buy the course could come from $5 million reportedly leftover from the purchase of Fowler Park. The remaining $4 million could come from the parks and recreation bond, impact fees and a portion of the one-cent sales tax extension collections slated for Bethel Park.

Brent Reid of Canongate Golf League said his company also made the county an offer, then countered Affiniti’s offer, but was turned down.

“We’re here to help out,” Reid said. “We’re not encouraging the county to purchase it for $12 million but if they do, we’re here to help out.”

He said Canongate, like Affiniti, offered to lease the site and could either waive the initiation fee for residents for the first year or make the course 60 percent private and 40 percent public.

Affiniti’s membership options include a 10 percent discount to all county residents on standard daily fees or instead, Boff said, Affiniti has offered to pay the county a minimum of $20,000 a year for the first 10 years and $40,000 each year after that.

The county has spent about $24,000 to have the golf course appraised at least five times. The amounts of the appraisals, the most recent of which Boff said is from early 2009, have not been made public.

Charles Meagher questioned the price being offered for the course.

Meagher, a former member of the Forsyth County Board of Tax Assessors, said Manton and Bagley brought their appraisals of the site to the tax commissioner’s office a year ago along with appraisals of other golf courses.

“The value of this property is $3.6 million,” Meagher said. “You can have all the appraisals you can pay for ... to get the numbers that you want. The value of this property is $3.6 million.”

He also questioned why Canongate or Affiniti doesn’t buy the golf course themselves.

“You know why they don’t buy it, it’s not worth it,” he said. “That’s why they won’t buy it.”

Meagher also suggested that the residents who live around the course should buy it.

Harrell countered and asked where Meagher was when the county paid $130,000 per acre for the Harrison property and $120,000 per acre for the Buice site, both of which are in District 2.

"Those properties were bought based on highest and best use and that's what the county does so we don't abuse the citizens," Harrell said. "That's the way it's done and you know it, better than most."

Some residents questioned whether the county should be buying anything at all, given the economy, and others asked if the site would have to be used strictly as a golf course if the deal goes through.

Boff said he has looked at other properties in the district. One, he said, is on the Chattahoochee River, but the U.S. National Park Service is expected to purchase it.

The other site, about 85 acres, is near Mashburn Elementary.

Boff said the course is a priority because of its location on Buford Dam Road and the fact that its activity center designation means a developer could eventually build a medium-density residential development on it.

Additionally, Boff said a lawsuit filed against the county by Manton and Bagley could go away if the county purchases the site. The course owners sued after the commission denied their request to rezone the property.

Wellstone LLC wanted to purchase the site, contingent upon its rezoning, and build a 772-unit residential development with a 300-unit continuing care retirement community on the property.

Wellstone dropped out of the suit in 2009 when it moved its headquarters to Texas.

The most recent development in the case is Appalachian Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Roger E. Bradley's late December decision against the county's request to dismiss it.

The owners have since released a statement saying the local government failed to uphold their constitutional rights and that they expect a trial early this year.

Included in the owners' suit against the county are arguments that the commission's denial of the rezoning was unconstitutional and was "in order for Forsyth County to purchase the property at less than its fair market value."

Harrell said he’s open to considering the 85-acre site as well as the course.

Resident Jim Myers said he supports the proposal.

“Anything in this economy is a gamble, but I think keeping it a golf course in some fashion probably is the smart thing to do,” he said.
“However, I think you also ought to look at, for a whole lot less money, just a few yards behind this school what would benefit all the people in the county ... to make that a green space.”