GREEN Residents in Green had plenty of questions for Mayor Gerard Neugebauer regarding the city's potential $3.3-million purchase of the 145-acre Raintree Country Club on Mayfair Road.
Neugebauer gave an overview of how the potential sale came about and went over some of the details of the property. Residents then had an opportunity to ask questions during a town hall on Sept. 17.
The sale came about as Raintree owner John Rainieri, who also owns Prestwick Country Club in the city, is ready to retire. He had an offer from someone who was interested in purchasing both courses, but that deal fell through earlier this year. There is pending litigation in court regarding the issue.
Neugebauer said once he learned the sale fell through the discussions about the city purchasing the property began.
Neugebauer admits he golfs - though joked that he's not very good at it - but said the intent to purchase the land is not about the city owning a golf course. Instead, he said, the purchase would be about preserving green space instead of watching a developer come in and build as many as 400 homes on the property.
If homes are built on the property, Neugebauer says it could put stress on the city’s infrastructure and potentially create an overcrowding issue in the Green Local Schools, which averages around 4,000 students each year. Neugebauer added that four streets near Raintree - Graybill Road, Wise Road, Mayfair Road and Heckman Road - would be impacted and need improved.
"The cost to update the infrastructure exceeds the cost to purchase this," Neugebauer said.
If the city does purchase the property, it will fund the project through the park’s capital fund and won’t take on any new debt.
A wide variety of questions were posed ranging from why the city needs more park land to what are the short- and long-term goals for the property.
Neugebauer said the city has 10 "great" parks and the motivation behind this purchase was never about adding more parks. He said in the short term the plan is to keep the property as a golf course and then the city would begin working on a plan long-term for how to use the land.
He said he doesn’t know if it will always remain a golf course, adding that it could be used as green space for the community in the future.
Neugebauer said it is important to note that Raintree turns a profit. He also believes the course is attractive to golfers due to not only its proximity within the city, but also being close to other neighboring communities.
Residents asked questions about who would run the course and if a private company or the city profit from it.
Neugebauer said he would like to see a professional company come in and run it because he doesn’t want to use city resources on operating a golf course. The city has talked with several management companies, but no decision has been made. As far as who would profit, Neugebauer said the goal would be both the private company and the city.
Residents also asked about hidden expenses and what upgrades would be made.
Neugebauer said nothing at Raintree is in dire need of needing replaced. He said the banquet facility, which can hold around 300 people, could use some upgrades, but he doesn’t see any major structural changes coming.
Another question was why the city doesn’t pay down debt instead of purchasing the property. Neugebauer said the city could do that as it has $52 million of debt. He added that in his first three years as mayor, the city has paid $13 million in debt. He also said Green did $10 million in capital projects this year without taking on any new debt.
Residents also wonder if there will be a resident discount or not for golf fees. Neugebauer said that could be explored, but said it is important the course generates money to cover operating costs.
One resident asked if Green residents will have a chance to vote on the issue. Neugebauer said it will be up to the seven members of council to vote on the purchase. He encouraged residents to reach out to their member of council with their thoughts and opinions.
Former Green Township Trustee Pete Langenek said before the golf course was built, a proposal for homes came before the trustees for the property and they voted it down. He said not long after, Rainieri came to the then-township about constructing a golf course.
"I am in favor of the city of Green buying it," said Langenek, who lives on Mayfair Road.
Ready to retire
Rainieri said he has been involved with golf courses his entire life and it is time to retire.
He said a developer was interested in buying the property three years ago, but Rainieri continued to operate the golf course. Now, he said three developers are interested in the property if the purchase with the city doesn't materialize.
"I would definitely like to see the city buy it," Rainieri said. "I live right on the course."
He said if the city doesn’t purchase the property, he likely will keep the course going for another year. In the 1990s, Rainieri said, golf courses overbuilt compared to the number of golfers. Now, as the number of golfers is dropping, many courses around the area are closing.
"Supply and demand is finally getting where it should be," Rainieri said.
He said many young golfers don’t want to be tied down to one course and want to be able to play different courses. Of his daily play, Rainieri said 80 percent are retirees. Raintree has league play five days per week and about 100 people play each day in a league, he said.
Council President Chris Humphrey said after the town hall that City Council still has many questions that need answered before a vote takes place on the purchase.