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City moving forward with golf course

West Fargo City Commissioners set the wheels in motion last night for a new 18-hole municipal golf course by approving a contribution agreement with Westport Beach Development and a contract with Lehman Design Group, Scottsdale, Ariz. to come up with a master plan.

On separate motions, the items passed 3-1, with Mayor Rich Mattern and City Commissioners Mark Simmons and Lou Bennett voting in favor of the action and Commissioner Mike Thorstad opposing each motion. Commissioner Bryan Schulz was absent.

Westport Beach Development officials offered to donate land last year to the city for the golf course. They own about 520 acres north of 52nd Avenue West, south of the Westport Beach subdivision and 40th Avenue East.

According to terms of the agreement, the city will accept the gift of real estate for golf course use and construct a golf course on the property. The amount of real estate conveyed will be sufficient to construct the course and related amenities.

Both the city and Westport Beach must agree on the land being donated prior to bids for construction being advertised, and the donation must occur prior to the bids being awarded. They also agreed that the value of all donated property for the golf course is $22,500 per acre. It is the intention that construction on the golf course begin on or before May 15, 2009.

Part of the plan is for Westport Beach developers to construct highend homes on the golf course, which would be assessed and bring property tax value to the city. There are about 520 acres in the area, which would result in about 720 homes being available.

The intent of the city would be not to proceed until three sources of funding outlined covered costs - storm water assessments, assessments on the lots when sold, golf course assessments - and a $450,000 reserve is in place. "If we can't get to that point, then we won't proceed," City Administrator Jim Brownlee said. "Our intent is to have costs covered," and Brownlee said this would occur through assessment on future home lots and developer owned land. He said the city would realize some cost for the course because of the storm sewer assessments. He also added that not doing the golf course, won't free up any money for any other projects.

Commissioner Mike Thorstad said he opposed the course, given the fact there is a long laundry list of other city needs, i.e. Main Avenue reconstruction, a water treatment plant, infrastructure, etc. "My concern is the recurring costs and I'm just not going to step behind this. Can we afford to do this with everything else we have coming at us?"

Residents Marvin Leidal and Jack Fuller urged the commission to consider other city issues and needs, voicing concern about what is going to happen with taxes in the city.

Mattern said the decision is a big one, similar to the one faced by commissioners, when work on Eagle Run began. "To me, it gets back to the property valuation that will come in."

Simmons said he didn't think it was a golf course issue, but a valuation issue. "If we all work together I think this is a good thing for us." On that note, he made the motion to approve the course, with other commissioners following suit.

No total cost has been arrived at yet for the golf course, but it was earlier estimated at $6.5 million. Cost for the design contract is $500,000, with $25,000 due upon signing the contract and another $75,000 due before bidding.

City Attorney Brian Neugebauer emphasized that there will be three or four points along the way where the city can opt out if the process is not financially feasible. Brownlee agreed, saying there is flexibility in the contract, in that if either the city or the developers concur that the costs are coming in too high to proceed, the expenses to that point will be split and that will be the end of it.

In other action, the commission:

-approved an agreement with Fargo on a revised extraterritorial and annexation area for properties south of the Interstate;

-approved second and final reading of ordinance 838 relating to prosecuting motorists not stopping for school buses. The ordinance now mirrors state law;

-okayed a joint powers agreement and CAD/RMS software agreement with the Red River Regional Dispatch Center;

-approved a cost participation agreement with the North Dakota Department of Transportation for cameras on the 9th Street overpass signals;

-awarded the contract for Street Improvement District No. 2195, Phase I, for 9th Street East from Interstate 94 to 32nd Avenue East to Dakota Underground Company, Fargo, with their low bid of $7,237,178.85;

-okayed a conditional use permit to allow for outdoor storage of construction equipment and materials at 1916 2nd Ave. NW.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the West Fargo City Commission will take place Monday, Jan. 5, at 5:30 p.m., in the Commission Chamber at West Fargo City Hall. All meetings are open to the public.