Sunday, March 11, 2012


In December of 2008 an ad hoc committee was formed to study golf at FW. Ad hoc is from the Latin, meaning roughly "for this special purpose". The committee, formally known as the Ad Hoc Select Committee to Study Golf released a report (available at the MA) of its findings in March of 2009. In the previous few years resident fees and taxes had been used to shore up what was once a self-sustaining golf operation and this study was done to determine what could be done about it in the short and long run. The pronouncements made and conclusions drawn came as no surprise to many residents.

The report stated that golf was losing money, that membership was down and that this was not just an issue for FW "but for the golf world in general."  It examined a number of ways to solve the problem including leasing it to a town, making it a public course, hiring a management company, building more units,even using it as a tree or wind farm.

No mention was made of selling it and the option of converting it to open space was deemed to be more expensive than operating the golf course.( No estimates for the cost of the open space option were secured from outside sources.) The report's final conclusion was that "since all residents benefit from the existence of the golf course, we recommend that the Golf Operation also be partly subsidized whenever golf membership falls too low to support 100% of the total operation."

From my reading of the report, few outside sources or viewpoints were presented to the committee, however the views of two realtors who specialize in sales of FW property were stated. They seemed reluctant to quantify how much, if any, the presence of the golf course adds to the value of residential units. One of them finally suggested 5-10%. Finally both said "they thought non-golfers bought units here because there was a course or at least groomed open space." This appraisal was done early in 2009, before the full force of the bursting bubble took its toll on the housing market. These days most brokers agree that high condo fees and taxes have an eroding effect on housing prices.

The report makes it clear that the long term goal should be for the course to be "fiscally independent" and advises that "given the uncertainty surrounding the future of golf, this topic needs to be reviewed each year to make the best decision for the Community." In the 2009-10 Budget proposed by FW the Golf Division reported that membership was down 65 from the previous year to 185 (resident & non-resident) golfers.They also projected a shortfall of $47,648. The projected shortfall for the present budget was $125K, however an additional $56K was added to that deficit at the January, 2012 Executive Board meeting.

In 2005 a resident committee was formed to vote down a budget that contained $68K for sand traps and repair of irrigation on the golf course by the Tax District. This year the district wants us to approve the sale of bonds totaling $6.8M (with interest) to replace that irrigation system and improve access to the clubhouse. How does increasing district taxes for residents by as much as 18% (9% for the golf bond alone) fit in with their goal of making the course "fiscally independent"? And what became of their concern for the  "fiscal interests"of non-golfing residents?

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