GREEN Green residents will have an opportunity to learn and ask questions about the city’s option to purchase Raintree Country Club during a town hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 17 at the country club.
The potential $3.3 million purchase has raised many questions in the community and from members of City Council. During the Aug. 28 council meeting, council discussed the issue for about an hour and a half.
Green Mayor Gerard Neugebauer said the deal came as Raintree owner John Rainieri wants to get out of the business. Rainieri, who also owns Ohio Prestwick Country Club, had a buyer for both courses. The new owner planned to make a several million dollar upgrade to Prestwick’s clubhouse and turn it into a wellness center. Plans for the upgrades were approved by the city’s planning and zoning and Neugebauer supported the project.
Neugebauer said the project recently fell apart and there are pending lawsuits regarding the matter.
Rainieri would like to see Raintree remain a golf course moving forward. The city is concerned if it does not purchase the property, it could become a subdivision with 300 to 400 homes, which could put stress on the schools and the city’s infrastructure.
Neugebauer said he has spent a lot of time since news of the potential sale broke talking with other courses and people in the community. He said he has heard overwhelming support for the purchase.
An appraisal of the property as a golf course came in at $2.7 million and an appraisal of the land for development was $3.5 million.
Raintree sits on 147 acres of land on Mayfair Road.
Councilman Steven Dyer raised concerns about the price offered to the city being $3.3 million instead of $2.7 million. Neugebauer said the property isn’t being offered to the city at $2.7 million and that wasn’t an option.
The city plans to use money from the Park’s Capital Improvement Fund to pay for the purchase if the agreement is approved by City Council. Each year, the city would pay back the fund $600,000 until the fund has been replenished. Neugebauer said many municipal golf courses have debt because the municipality didn’t have a way to pay for the purchase. He said if Green didn’t have the parks fund, he would not have recommended the purchase.
Green Interim Law Director William Chris said Raintree has cooperated with the city every step of the way providing any information needed.
Neugebauer also said the banquet hall at Raintree is an important asset as well as the city holds their State of City Address there each year.
Green Service Director Valerie Wax Carr said municipal golf courses are not always profitable. She and Neugebauer agree the city doesn’t want to be in the business of running a golf course itself and would rather find a company to run it.
Wax Carr said the city has been in talks with Davey Golf, which maintains the Cleveland Metroparks courses. The city has also talked with Billy Casper Golf, which manages the city of Euclid’s golf course.
There are several options when it comes to working with a golf management company, she said, but the city would likely lease the course to the company who would oversee all the management.
One of the next steps will be creating a request for proposal (RFP). Wax Carr said work is being done behind the scenes as the city continues to work out the details.
Council President Chris Humphrey said he appreciates all the work being done behind the scenes.
City Council is not expected to vote on the legislation to purchase the golf course at the next meeting even though the legislation will be on its third reading. The city wants to make sure residents have an opportunity to ask questions at the upcoming town hall.
"I am glad to hear there is no rush," Humphrey said.
At the same time, the city doesn’t want to drag its feet too long because it would like to have something in place if a purchase is made so preparations can be made for next golf season.
Wax Carr said it is important to note Raintree’s numbers are strong and the course is not failing.
Neugebauer said the city has the option of keeping the land just as green space, which would still require some maintenance.
"There are a lot of recreation opportunities on that land," Neugebauer said.
He said the city’s parks board also supports the city purchasing the land.
Councilman Justin Speight said he would like to see projected operating costs moving forward.
The question of why to purchase Raintree instead of Prestwick also came up. Neugebauer said Raintree is a rectangle shaped property, which would be prime for a developer, while Prestwick has a different layout and a developer couldn’t build the same amount of homes at Prestwick.
Councilwoman Barbara Babbitt raised a question she has received from many people about a community pool being built on the property.
"There is always potential," Neugebauer said. "I am not limiting anything."
He said a community pool is something people often ask for but it comes with a large price tag, including staffing and insurance.