What does the Golf Course decision mean?

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In what appeared to be a rather sudden decision – or at least one that seemed to catch many community members by surprise – the CLPOA Board of Directors made a decision at the April 7 Board meeting to allow outside play on the Golf Course. More specifically, they unanimously voted to reverse an April 1987 Board Action to make the Golf Course private.

Many residents interpreted this decision to mean that the Golf Course would be opened to the public, and response was immediate in the community’s golf circles, amongst real estate agents and on some of Canyon Lake’s social media sites.

Some applauded the decision as a means to bring in more revenue to support the heavily subsidized amenity. Others voiced concerns about outside golfers abusing the course and the security of the gated community being compromised.

The candidates vying for the POA Board of Directors got a chance to weigh in on the subject at two of the recent candidate forums. At Monday’s “Speak to the Candidates” event at the Lodge, Fran Pothier asked them whether they agreed with the Board’s decision to, in his words, “turn the Golf Course into a public course.”

Candidate Bruce Yarbrough, a current Board member, explained that the intent of the Board’s decision wasn’t to make the Golf Course public. Rather, it is to give the Association the ability to market to outside players the blocks of time that are not being used by Canyon Lake members. He noted that the Golf Course is only 43 percent utilized at this time. Bruce said it had been misrepresented that it would be a public, municipal-type golf course, noting that the Association would provide more information about the decision in this week’s issue of The Friday Flyer.

Larry Greene said he comes from “the adverse impact of what could happen” and noted that initially it was presented that it would go to a public type course. He says he knows of private courses that allow public play, but he is not in favor of making it a public course.

Tamie Mongold commented that there needs to be a public forum where all the members can address this with the Board. She said, “As a community we need to decide whether this is something we want to do.”

Paul Queen said he understood that it was the Board’s intent to bring in more money to help pay for the Golf Course since the number of annual memberships has dwindled to about 200. He said if outsiders from neighboring communities could come in to see the beauty of the course and to play on it, some of them might want to buy annual memberships. “We need to get memberships up to about 400 to really support the Golf Course,” he said, noting that once memberships are back up to a satisfactory level, the course could be returned to semi-private mode.

Harry Larson opposes the Board’s decision, indicating that the amount that is projected to be brought in, $17,000, is not significant enough to make it worthwhile. He noted, “Any golf course that brings in public play deteriorates.”

Eric Spitzer, a current Board member, said he is not in favor of any of the amenities being public; however, he sees good points on both sides of the Golf Course issue. He said that, because he had received e-mails and seen so many comments about it in social media, he is putting it on the agenda for next month’s Board meeting to allow further discussion by members.

Ted Horton said that residents have become “hung up on the semantics of ‘public’ vs. ‘private.’” He said that marketing needs to improve to increase the use of the Golf Course and to close the gap on what members spend to subside the amenity, but he personally is in favor of keeping it private.

Lawrence Neigel said there are two ways to keep the Golf Course private: raise green fees and annual fees of those who use it, or raise the assessments of the entire membership. He said he appreciates the Board’s willingness to market some of the times on the course to outside players and he is in favor of that decision. “Golfers aren’t going to tear up the course,” he noted.

Dale Welty commented that the Golf Course costs every member a lot of money to run and there needs to be a way to bring in more revenue. He believes it can be marketed to outside players and still maintain a “private feel.” He said, “If the number of people who play golf on the Canyon Lake course continues to decline, we will really be paying a lot.”

The candidates’ thoughts seem to be representative of most residents’ thinking. Apparently seeing the need to explain the Board’s decision-making process with regard to the Golf Course, a POA press release dated April 14 indicated that Board’s decision does not make the course “open to the public, nor does it change the status of the Golf Course.”

The press release states, “It still remains a private golf course; however, it allows enhanced utilization of the course during slow periods by integrating outside day play. Association members continue to be the top priority.”

Using reservation tracking software, the Association is planning to put together a business model that identifies the ideal periods for outside play, times that would not interfere with member play.

As explained, “Canyon Lake has seen a decline in golf in recent years. For example, in the 2014-15 fiscal year, there were only 339 annual members and the amount of rounds played decreased. Without increasing the annual golf membership fee, the Association needs to find ways to generate additional revenue.”

The press release continues, “Staff has looked at several ways to increase business, including allowing annual outside memberships and increasing outside tournaments. Offering day play to outside individuals is the next logical step to allow the Association to generate revenue and help contain the possible increases in subsidies.”

To read the complete press release, see Page A-14. To hear candidates’ complete statements about the Golf Course and other issues, view the candidate forums at www.canyonlakepoa.com (click on Governance, then 2015 Board Election).

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Sharon Rice