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Terms of deal emerge
Forsyth may buy site, then lease it
lanier golf course s19C4FF
Forsyth County is considering a plan to buy Lanier Golf Course off Buford Dam Road and lease it to a private company. - photo by Emily Saunders
Supporters of a proposed contract for Lanier Golf Course between Forsyth County and a private company point to what they say are perks for local residents and schools.

The agreement with Affiniti Golf Partners of Alpharetta shows that the company would pay about $3 million to Lanier Golf Club.

Though the proposal does not say how much the county would pay to buy the 170-acre site off Buford Dam Road, commissioners have said that figure is about $9 million.

Terms of a potential lease between the county and Affiniti to operate the course were not included in documents obtained by the Forsyth County News.

Commissioner Jim Harrell, who worked with Commissioner Jim Boff on the deal, contends it’s a winning solution.

“There’s still some confusion out there, folks still think we’re going to operate a golf course,” Harrell said. “We have no financial liability ... we have no ongoing maintenance and, of course, we have a few givebacks which are nice.”

Those “givebacks” would include a 10 percent discount for residents to use the course and an annual tournament with proceeds going to the county parks and recreation department’s general fund.

The deal also calls for an annual high school tournament and an adopt-a-school program.

Harrell also pointed out that the residents who live on and near the course have fought to preserve it since 2006, when Manton and Bagley announced plans to sell the site.

“Instead of doing green space we save a few jobs, save some sales tax money and things of that nature too,” Harrell said.  

Unlike with many other county projects, County Attorney Ken Jarrard said, the county is not legally required to accept bids for operating the site.

“The proposal as currently envisioned is much more akin to a joint venture,” he said.

Harrell has said funding to buy the course could come from the county’s $100 million parks, recreation and green space bond, which voters approved the bond measure in 2008.

Harrell said he and Boff, whose district includes the golf course, began working on the deal about two months ago.

Boff did return phone calls seeking comment on the matter.

Residents who live near the course pitched the site to Affiniti, Canongate Golf Clubs and Heritage Golf Group, Harrell said.

“We met with all of them and we got a bid from Canongate and we didn’t think that would work,” Harell said. “Affinity gave us a number that we thought would work.”

According to the draft, the agreement would last for 99 years and the county would be responsible for paying property taxes on the site.

Harrell said if for some reason Affiniti has to shut down or opt out of the contract for any other reason, the county could lease the course to another company or convert it to green space.

“The bottom line is, no matter what happens, that number of acres would be set aside for recreation of some sort,” Harrell said.

Gerry Sullivan, who lives near the course, said 19.7 percent of the county’s population lives in District 5, which needs recreational green space.
The area includes Cumming and much of eastern Forsyth.

“The property that the residents desire to preserve is large, it is open, it is green and it is recreational,” he said. “Its price per acre is much less than other purchases and it will require no additional tax dollars to make it usable.”

Commissioner Patrick Bell said in a statement that he does not support the county buying the course, though he is in the golf business.

“As someone that is in touch with the golf industry every day, I can confidently tell you that now is not the time to enter the golf business,” he said. “I can also say that cities, counties and even our own state are desperately trying to get out of the golf business. It is a losing proposition.”

Bell contends that those who do want the county to buy the course would be better served by convincing the commission to put the issue on a ballot, “raise private money for promotion and hope that the citizens desire it as much as they do.”

“We could bond it and if the golf course could cover the bond payments and operations we would have a county golf course,” he said.

“I have also floated a concept that we seek out a quality hotel operator, and through the proper channels of the development authority, have a garden hotel and small convention facility that would incorporate the golf course into its theme and operations.”

Bell also mentioned the possibility of a lake ferry running between the hotel facility and the proposed Great Wolf project, a resort and indoor water park the city of Cumming hopes to land at nearby Mary Alice Park.