By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Value of course hinges on use
Filings say site worth less for golf
Placeholder Image
Forsyth County News
Documents included with Lanier Golf Course's recent tax filings contend the course is worth far less than the $12 million Forsyth County appears willing to pay for it.

A copy of the taxpayer’s return of real property, obtained by the Forsyth County News through an open records request, suggests the site is worth $1.5 million.

An affidavit attached to the document claims the property could be worth up to $1.8 million and “has no financially viable use as a golf course.”

Forsyth County Commissioners Jim Harrell and Jim Boff have proposed that the county buy the course for $12 million from owners Jack Manton and George Bagley Jr.

The county would then 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 $12 million price tag and Sequoia officials say they’ll put up $3.5 million.

Asked about the filings, Manton explained that the amounts in the tax documents reflect what the property is worth as a golf course.

He contends the county would actually be buying “one of the most valuable pieces of property in Forsyth County.”

Hilda W. Allen, a licensed real estate broker and Georgia licensed auctioneer, authored the affidavit.

According to the document, from 2003 to 2009 Allen brokered the sale of more than 40 golf courses in several states including Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Tennessee.

Manton said Allen is “the foremost seller of golf courses in the United States” and an expert witness in proving economic detriment in his case against the county.

“As a golf course it’s not worth what it was when we bought it,” Manton said.

He has previously said the men paid $4 million for the course in 1986, knowing that 172 acres would be worth more as a development than what they paid for it as a course.

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.

Wellstone LLC had plans, contingent upon the rezoning, to build a 772-unit residential development with a 300-unit continuing care retirement community.

The company joined the course owners in the suit, but dropped out early in 2009 after moving its headquarters to Texas.

By denying the rezoning, Manton said, the commission restricted the property.

Were it to be valued at its highest and best use, which Manton contends is an activity center, it could be worth $25 million to $35 million.

He said the property is not for sale on the market as a golf course.

“We’re selling it as one of the most valuable pieces of property in Forsyth County,” Manton said. “If [commissioners] want to use it as a golf course, that’s their prerogative.”

Boff reiterated the fact that no deal has been signed.

He said commissioners authorized the county attorney to make an offer for the site during a work session last spring, but they have not directed him to do so.

If the county were to buy the course, he said, the commission would follow the same purchasing procedures it has for other sites.

“This property, like all of the other properties, will be purchased according to best and highest use, not according to its fair market value as seen by the tax office,” he said.

To date, the county has spent nearly $24,000 on multiple appraisals of the golf course.

Attempts to obtain the appraisals, which have not yet become public record because they involve potential land acquisition, have not been successful.

The documents do show, however, that the property was appraised several different ways: low-density residential; golf course; and "highest and best use."

Boff added that details surrounding proposals made by companies wanting to negotiate a deal for the golf course are “fluid” and “will be decided by the commissioners in the best interest of the county.”

Boff said the money to buy the course would likely come from different funding sources agreed on by the commission.

In short, some of the money could come from the $100 million parks, recreation and green space bond approved by voters in 2008, though there isn’t enough left to cover the entire cost of the course.

The commission has spent $33 million of the $36 million set aside in the bond for purchasing green space.

Manton said he doesn’t necessarily agree with Allen’s assertion in the affidavit that the site is not financially viable as a golf course.

“That was her opinion," he said. "She’s an expert in the field and she would probably say that for most every golf course in the metropolitan Atlanta area now because of the times."

In the meantime, Manton said he and his partner have to act as if the county is going to make them continue to operate the site as a golf course.

“If that’s the case, we think we should pay taxes based upon its value as a golf course in today’s market,” he said.

Another point Allen raised in the affidavit is that financing from traditional sources has nearly vanished for parties who want to buy golf courses, “making many transactions ‘cash only’ purchases at greatly reduced prices.”

Manton said he would be willing to loan Affiniti or Canongate up to $3 million for their part of the deal.

He further explained that, according to Affiniti’s proposal, the county would pay $9 million and the company would sign a promissory note to pay him and Bagley $3 million over a 30-year period.

“We’ve told both companies we’re not taking sides,” Manton said.

He said they’d be willing to make Affiniti and Canongate the same financing offer “based on the fact that the neighborhood asked us to do this.”

Manton added that both companies told the men they couldn’t get the funding from a bank. In order to seal the deal, the course owners would have to loan them the money.

He also said if the golf course is sold, the lawsuit will go away.

Joe Guerra, chief executive officer and president of Sequoia and Canongate, has said they’ve proposed borrowing a $3.5 million loan from the club owners at 7 percent interest.

He said Canongate has pitched a 10-year balloon payment. That would mean that at the end of that decade, if the company still owed $2 million, they’d have to pay up.

Manton said he and Bagley haven’t agreed to Canongate’s proposal.

“No one’s asked me from Canongate about funding anything different than this $3 million, and I don’t think we would fund more than $3 million,” he said.

Boff said the commission could discuss the issue as early as Tuesday, when it holds a work session.