UPDATE: Fractious, five-year fight over fate of golf course

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Nydia Tisdale
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Rezoning request denied unanimously

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 15th, 2011, 10:20 am

FORSYTH COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
REGULAR MEETING/PUBLIC HEARINGS
SEPTEMBER 20, 2007

Lanier Golf Club
Wellstone, LLC, ZA# 3370, A1 to MPD – District #5

There was a motion by Commissioner Ledbetter and a second by Commissioner Harrell to deny the rezoning request by Wellstone, LLC, ZA# 3370, A1 to MPD as follows:

This matter comes before the Board of Commissioners upon Zoning Application 3370, which is Wellstone LLC’s application to have the Lanier Golf Course, a 172 acre parcel located along Buford Dam Road at Fairway Drive rezoned from A-1 to a Master Planned District in order to construct a residential neighborhood with a commercial component consisting of a Continuing Care Retirement Community.

This rezoning application is now ready for Board consideration and action. To that end, I move to DENY zoning application 3370, for the following reasons:

1. Wellstone’s own traffic study reflects that this project will result in the generation of 3,500 daily vehicular trips that will primarily impact Buford Dam Road, a minor arterial road in Forsyth County. While Wellstone’s traffic study identifies various proposed road improvements to ameliorate the impact of such increased volume, there is no proposed road improvement (short term or long term) that will adequately address the impact of 3,500 more vehicles on Buford Dam Road. Moreover, it would be impossible for Buford Dam Road to ever be meaningfully widened or expanded because of its proximity to Buford Dam and the lakes on each side of the road; consequently, Buford Dam Road will probably never be modified in such a way as to absorb the impact of this additional vehicular traffic. For this and other reasons related to traffic, the County’s roadway infrastructure simply cannot accommodate this rezoning.

As part of the motion, Commissioner Ledbetter requested that this text be placed in the record of tonight’s meeting.

There was a motion by Commissioner Laughinghouse and a second by Commissioner Richard to amend the original motion to include five more reasons for denial as follows:

2. The proposal submitted by Wellstone does not fulfill the requirements of the Activity Center land use designation; specifically, the Comprehensive Plan dictates that in an Activity Center, residential uses shall be considered “accessory” to the center as a whole. The Forsyth County Unified Development Code provides that an “accessory” use is one that is “incidental and subordinate” to the principal use. Here, even if the CCRC component of Wellstone’s plan is considered commercial, it nonetheless remains the case that 132 acres out of 175 total acres on the Wellstone site will be dedicated to strictly residential uses. Stated another way, and giving every benefit of the doubt in favor of Wellstone: 75% of Wellstone’s proposed development is going to be residential. This is at odds with the County’s Comprehensive Plan which dictates that the residential component of an Activity Center must be merely accessory.

3. The Forsyth County Comprehensive Plan dictates that Activity Centers are to be near “major intersections.” Wellstone’s own traffic study makes clear that there are no major intersections near this proposed development. In fact, the Comprehensive Plan identifies Activity Centers in the Buford/Highway 20 East sub area as occurring at the intersection of Georgia 20 and Sanders Road and Georgia 20 and Windermere Parkway. Both are major intersections. Neither the intersections of Buford Dam Road and Fairway Lane nor the intersections of Samples Road and Fairway Drive are major intersections. Indeed, both Fairway Lane and Fairway Drive are such minor roadways that they are deemed ‘undesignated’ roadways by Forsyth County. Consequently, the placement of an Activity Center at a location without a major intersection is inconsistent with the County’s Comprehensive Plan.

4. Wellstone has chosen to fulfill the “commercial” component of the MPD zoning designation by means of a Continuing Care Retirement Center (“CCRC”). However, a Continuing Care Retirement Center is a conditional use under the Forsyth County Unified Development Code, and the only means by which a CCRC may be obtained is by a request for a Conditional Use Permit (“CUP”). The Master Planned District (“MPD”) provides that the application requirements for a MPD are “in excess” of those for other zoning designations, and the commercial zoning performance tables in Chapter 12 and the specific use requirements of Section 16-4.8 anticipate that a Conditional Use Permit is required in order to receive a CCRC zoning. Because Wellstone has not sought a CUP for a CCRC contemporaneous with its rezoning request to MPD, Forsyth County is unable to approve this rezoning.

5. The Wellstone plan does not comport with the specific criteria with respect to the MPD zoning designation. For instance, Sections 20B-5.2 of the UDC provides that MPDs should have internal roadways that favor a “grid system” over a cul-de-sac design. This project is not consistent with that objective. Similarly, an MPD is supposed to have interconnectivity with adjoining property. The Wellstone proposal provides for none.

6. In addition, the Wellstone proposal must be denied for the following additional reasons:

(a) The proposed densities are inappropriate and inconsistent with adjoining and nearby land uses;

(b) The proposed use will have a detrimental and adverse affect on adjacent and nearby properties and property values;

(c) The proposed use will cause an excessive burden on existing streets, transportation facilities, utilities, and schools;

(d) The land as presently zoned has substantial economic value, and can yield a favorable economic return for its property owner;

(e) Denial of this rezoning is directly related to and in fact benefits the public health, safety and welfare of Forsyth County and such benefits far outweigh any detrimental impact to the property owner that may be caused by denial;

(f) The environmental consequences of this proposed, intense use will be pronounced and will certainly result in greater pollution, storm water run-off, loss of pervious surface, destabilization of downstream streams and channels, and potential flooding of adjacent and downstream properties;

(g) This proposed rezoning and development will result in increased and unwarranted noise, odor, visual intrusion, loss of aesthetics, light pollution and impact on adjacent and nearby properties.

As part of the amendment, Commissioner Laughinghouse requested that this text be placed in the record of tonight’s meeting.

Motion to amend carried unanimously.
Original motion, as amended, carried unanimously.


http://www.forsythco.com/meetagend_deta ... nfoID=1198

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Links litigation likely

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 15th, 2011, 11:26 am

Board's decision to deny golf course plan headed for court

Forsyth County News
By Julie Arrington
September 23, 2007

To no one's surprise, the battle over the Lanier Golf Course site is headed to court. The Forsyth County commission voted 5-0 Thursday to deny Wellstone LLC's request to rezone the golf course for development.

What did catch some parties off guard was the unanimous decision, particularly given the board's history of split votes on contentious issues.

Gerry Sullivan, president of opposition group Save Lanier Golf Course, said Friday the group was pleased with the board's decision, though the vote was a surprise.

"Our organization wasn't really hanging our hat on a 5-0 vote," he said.

Before the vote, Wellstone Chief Executive Officer John Lowery issued a statement conceding defeat and confirming plans to take the issue to court.

"We intend to immediately pursue our right to petition the courts through a lawsuit to require Forsyth County to rezone the property from its present agricultural zoning to one that is consistent with surrounding uses and provides for the highest and best use of this extremely valuable property," Lowery said.

Wellstone has said it expects to file the suit within the week.

"While we had hoped that this could be resolved through a give and take discussion with citizens and commissioners, we are absolutely confident that the courts will rule in favor of our petition," Lowery said.

If the commission had granted the company's request to rezone the course from agricultural to a multiple planned district, Wellstone could have built a 772-unit residential development. That includes a 300-unit continuing care retirement community.

According to the statement, Wellstone asked to delay Thursday night's vote to allow time to discuss with the community an alternative plan that calls for a nine-hole golf course and about 400 homes.

Wellstone entered into a contract with course owners Jack Manton and George Bagley Jr. to buy the property contingent upon its rezoning.

Manton declined to comment on the matter Friday.

The course is in Commissioner Linda Ledbetter's district.

Citing Wellstone's own traffic study, Ledbetter made the motion Thursday to deny the request.

"While Wellstone's traffic study identifies various proposed road improvements ... there's no proposed road improvement short or long term that would adequately address the impact of 3,500 more vehicles on Buford Dam Road," she said.

"Moreover, it would be impossible for Buford Dam Road to be meaningfully widened or expanded because of its proximity to Buford Dam and the lake on each side of the road."

Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse strengthened the motion with an amendment that added five more reasons for denial based on the county's comprehensive plan and unified development code.

"Wellstone has chosen to fulfill the commercial component of the MPD zoning designation by means of a continuing care retirement center," he said.

"However, a continuing care retirement center is a conditional use under the unified development code and the only means by which a CCRC may be obtained is by a request for a conditional use permit. ... Because Wellstone has not sought a CUP for a CCRC contemporaneous with the rezoning request for an MPD, Forsyth County is unable to approve this rezoning."

Sullivan said his group is "wondering how did it ever get this far through the process."

"If it had those many things to cause the denial, how did it ever get through the application process and those things were not caught."

Commissioners were faced with a sea of green shirts, worn by opponents of the plan to develop Lanier Golf Course, during their meeting on Thursday.

Lanier Golf Course - at the center of a heated debate - has been closed, and is now posted with no trespassing signs.

Photos/Jim Dean

Infobox

We are absolutely confident that the courts will rule in favor of our petition. - Wellstone CEO John Lowery

There's no proposed road improvement ... that would adequately address the impact of 3,500 more vehicles on Buford Dam Road. - Commissioner Linda Ledbetter

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Hired guns

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 15th, 2011, 12:09 pm

Lanier Golf Club, Inc., et al. v. Forsyth County et al.

Case Number: S10I0730
County Location: Forsyth
Lower Court Numbers: 07-CV-2213

Forsyth County:
Christine Kay Van Berkum LANDRUM & FRIDUSS, LLC
Phillip Edward Friduss LANDRUM & FRIDUSS, LLC
W. Scott Henwood HALL, BOOTH, SMITH & SLOVER, P.C.

Lanier Golf Club, Inc.:
Andrea Cantrell Jones DILLARD & GALLOWAY, LLC
Marion T. Pope, Jr. HASTY POPE, LLP
G. Douglas Dillard DILLARD & GALLOWAY, LLC
Lauren MacLeod Hansford DILLARD & GALLOWAY, LLC

http://www.gasupreme.us/docket_search/r ... r=S10I0730

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Lis Pendens on Lanier Golf Club, Inc.

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 15th, 2011, 12:27 pm

Image

Notice For Record of Lis Pendens

Michael D. Peck on Behalf of Himself and All Homeowners Adjacent
to Lanier Golf Club f/k/a Canongate on Lanier Golf Club,
Plaintiffs,
v.
Lanier Golf Club, Inc.,
Defendant.

Civil Action File No. 07CV-2147
Date: October 8, 2007

Forsyth County Land Records
http://resolution.forsythco.com/Externa ... kPage.aspx
Book 166, Page 648

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George Ruel Bagley was co-owner of Lanier Golf Club

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 15th, 2011, 12:49 pm

Mr. George Ruel Bagley

Mr. George Ruel Bagley, age 87, a native and lifelong resident of Forsyth County, passed away Friday, March 13, 2009. He served on the Forsyth County Board of Education for 13 years and was chairman for six years. He served on the board of the Forsyth County Hospital and on the Vocational Advisory Board appointed by the governor. He was president of the Georgia Poultry Federation and was one of the pioneers of the Forsyth County Bank where he served as a bank director for 23 years. He also served on the Social Security Board for four years in Forsyth County.

George was one of the pioneers of the poultry business in Forsyth County and was in business for 40 years. George also taught Sunday school at Oak Grove Baptist Church for 32 years. He served as deacon of Oak Grove Baptist Church for 30 years. He was president and co-owner of Lanier Golf Club in Cumming. He was a Mason and member of Lafayette Lodge #044.

Survivors include his wife of 24 years, Betty Anne Bagley of Cumming; children, Elaine Pemberton of Cumming, John and Susan Tait of Cumming; George Jr. and Jill Bagley of Cumming; Angela Breffeilh of Louisiana; Tracy Burnette of Dawsonville, Greg and Alison Burnette of Gainesville.

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/forsyt ... &fhid=4996

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Company drops out of lawsuit over links

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 15th, 2011, 1:33 pm

Forsyth County News
By Julie Arrington
May 31, 2009

One of two parties seeking legal action against Forsyth County over Lanier Golf Course has dropped out of the fight - and Georgia. Wellstone LLC had plans to buy the course from owners Jack Manton and George Bagley Jr. and build a 772-unit residential development on the property of Buford Dam Road.

The company joined Manton and Bagley in the lawsuit filed in October 2007 after the county commission denied a request to rezone the course from residential to a master planned district.

Wellstone had agreed to buy the site contingent upon its rezoning.

On Friday, Wellstone President John Lowery said the company has been dismissed from the suit and that its headquarters has moved from Cumming to Dallas, Texas.

"We moved down here [Texas] at the first of the year, and so we gave up our interest in the contract to buy the property and withdrew from the case," he said.

Wellstone's principle mezzanine lender, Cornerstone Ministries Investments Inc. has gone bankrupt, though Lowery said that was not a factor in his company's decision to abandon the golf course plans.

"Cornerstone's bankruptcy had a role in a whole lot of other decisions, and I had about $100 million in loans from them on projects from Texas to Georgia to South Carolina," he said.

"That's a part of their bankruptcy process that finally has been discharged as of April 9, but had nothing to do with Lanier. We have moved on and we're focusing on other projects around the country."

Manton declined to comment on the lawsuit.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the case still is in the discovery stage.

Lanier has asked the court for a jury trial, but Jarrard said he thinks it would be November at the earliest before the case made it on a trial calendar.

He said the county is expected by late June to file motions to have the case dismissed without going through a trial.

Included in the complaint against the county, were arguments that the commission's denial was unconstitutional and was "in order for Forsyth County to purchase the property at less than its fair market value."

The county denied those allegations in its December 2007 response to the complaint.

Residents who live near the course have asked the county commission to buy it, in the hopes of preventing development of the site.

County Commissioner Patrick Bell, who was not on the board when the suit was filed, confirmed last week that the county has had the site appraised recently.

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COMMENT on Lanier Public Golf Course

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 15th, 2011, 3:55 pm

COMMENT
CummingHome.com
Aubrey
Feb 21, 2010 4:50pm


A logical, cost effective plan with County participation to preserve Lanier Public Golf Course has been crafted that would not require day to day involvement or management by the County. A Business Plan put forth by involved citizens, interested parties and endorsed by some County Commissioners is available for any that are honestly interested in it. Yet, Commissioner Bell suggests that those in favor of the County’s investment should “put together a plan”. Commissioner Bell apparently has not been paying attention or is intentionally misleading the residents to believe that the District Five residents are just, as he states, “making a bunch of noise”. To be so arrogantly lectured by a disingenuous condescending Commissioner who obviously could not care less about residents outside his District or, apparently in this case, the entire County and who is thick with typical divisive political rhetoric is unfortunate.

Mr Bell should take some time, as uninterested he may be, to review the history of what has transpired with the efforts of the taxpaying citizens of District Five to preserve Lanier Golf Course. Begin with the County’s Future Land Use Map being modified over four years ago in the dark of night to allow for a developer to destroy the Course for high density residential. Due to public challenge and what was in the best interests of the County, that was delayed and the developer abandoned their project. Those efforts were draining, emotional and left the future of the Course still uncertain. Now a genuine opportunity is in reach to keep Forsyth County with an established Premier Public Course and select Commissioners turn their backs for reasons that cannot be explained.

Many have sacrificed blood, sweat, tears and financial resources for years to preserve the Course to the benefit of Forsyth County and the entire Region. That said, they do not need to be lectured by an ill-informed, dismissive novice Commissioner who obviously is not dealing with or is ignoring all the facts, void of historical knowledge, and is in the business of intentionally misleading the uninformed. The disinterest of the elected officials, including the Mayor, over the past years to so easily ignore the significance and the legacy of the Lanier Golf Course has been stunning, irresponsible and extremely disappointing.

Preservation of the course with major upgrades would benefit all residents, Forsyth County, the Region, all vested parties and save what is certainly a highly regarded well known Green Space Gem in Forsyth County. The Course attracts visitors to Forsyth County from a wide radius. Lanier Golf Course, over the decades, has made very favorable impressions of the Country, its people and services. Why the elected officials are unable to recognize the benefit of a Premier Public Golf Course in the County and that can be preserved for such a minimal investment of available funds is truly a mystery.

Unfortunately, it in the case of Mr Bell he has rationalized to his own satisfaction the decision to oppose allocating funds to preserve Lanier Golf Course. His self serving rationalization includes that funding the course would “deprive” others or is somehow undefined and inexplicably tied to “special interests”, he ignores and has wrongly characterized a very logical win-win plan to preserve the Course, minimizes its County wide value as it just being “a golf course” that only District Five residents would enjoy, and discounts its eligibility for funding because it was not originally on “the list” approved by the Board. The list that has proven to be fluid.

Mr Bell will not be swayed by those that cannot vote for him. He will only give lip service to those that attend the meeting Feb 25. He will predictably thank all for their input and retreat, unfazed, to the safe confines of his District’s borders having positioned Lanier Golf Course to possibly suffer a slow death.

http://www.cumminghome.com/events/gover ... ting.shtml

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Green space? Forsyth County split over golf course purchase

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 15th, 2011, 4:00 pm

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
By Christopher Quinn
February 23, 2010

The Lanier Golf Club outside of Cumming is 172 acres of grass and trees, but is it green space? Or parkland? Or a boondoggle waiting for a buyer?

Forsyth County residents and the Board of Commissioners are divided over whether the county should purchase the course with money set aside for parks and recreation.

Supporters say it could save the land from development, as a builder has proposed, and it would be a recreational asset.

Those opposed wonder if the $12 million for the course would be better spent elsewhere, such as for 84 acres of forest for sale on nearby Echols Road. They point out the nearly 40-year-old course has shut down twice in the past and wonder if it would be a money loser for the county.

A public meeting to discuss the purchase will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Mashburn Elementary School at 3777 Samples Road in Cumming.

Commissioner Jim Boff, in whose district the course lies, said local Democratic and Republican parties held polls in recent years on whether the course should be saved from redevelopment. Both voted yes.

"No other piece of property can have [that] said about it," Boff said.

Commissioner Patrick Bell said, "I don't think we ought to be in the golf business."

New parks are high on the agenda for Forsyth County residents, but this potential purchase has them as divided as the Board of Commissioners. The board has been getting feedback from people on both sides. In 2008, voters easily passed a $100 million bond program to buy parks and green space. The county bought 750 acres and is building new recreation facilities. But Boff's district has seen only one, small bond-money purchase worth $250,000.

Ken Leach, who lives near the course and favors the county buying it, said, "The neighborhood is really upset about the lack of money spent here out of the bonds passed by the voters. It's really unfair."

Commissioner Jim Harrell, who supports the purchase, said a combination of bond money, SPLOST taxes and impact fees could pay for the course, so taxpayers would not be burdened during a time when county budgets are shrinking. Also, a business partner, Affiniti Golf Partners of Alpharetta, has offered to pay $3 million toward the purchase price in exchange for a 99-year lease to operate the course. If the course failed, the property would revert to the county, he said.

Kristin Morrissey, who worked on the citizen committee to pass the bonds, wonders why the county would want to pay anything for it.

"It's already there now," and anyone can play on it, she said. "If we pay $12 million, what do we get for it?"

The danger of redevelopment of the course is stalled with the real estate crash, she said.

The company behind the proposed redevelopment, Wellstone Communities, is in bankruptcy.

Instead, the money could be used to build more promised recreation centers, develop parks or buy undeveloped land, Morrissey said.

Harrell said buying the course would make it impossible for future developers to try the same thing. He thinks the approximately $52,000 an acre the county would have in its $9 million share would be a good price.

Boff said, "If the operator could not make a go of it … it could go back to being green space."

http://www.ajc.com/news/green-space-for ... 24029.html

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Plan to buy golf course splits public sentiment

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 15th, 2011, 4:29 pm

County in the golf business? Forsyth splits on buying a course
$12 million price tag, shared ownership raising questions.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
By Christopher Quinn
March 22, 2010

A proposed county purchase of the Lanier Golf Club's 18 holes at a price that is multiples of its tax value has roiled Forsyth County and divided the Board of Commissioners.

There have been public meetings and questions about the $12 million price for the course when the tax valuation says the land is worth $3.6 million, and an appraisal filed last week by the owners says it is worth a maximum of $1.8 million.

Some residents question the way two commissioners negotiated a proposed purchase semipublicly, and the nature of the deal itself. It would involve the county in a complex public-private partnership in which a course management company would borrow money from one of the course owners to buy from the county the right to operate the course.

"I do have a lot of concerns, and one of them is the process," said Vern Zachgo, a Laurel Springs resident.

The price is another, he said.

Golf courses are foundering, such as north Fulton's Country Club of the South, which is in foreclosure. The Forsyth course appraisal last week noted that fewer people are playing fewer rounds of golf, and courses are having financial troubles and dropping in value.

"What's the rush?" Zachgo asked.

Slow down and let people know what is going on, he counseled.

The course could be purchased with money from a $100 million bond issue for new parks and green space passed in 2008.

Some residents have spoken against spending park money for a golf course, but Brant Meadows, a member of the county Planning Commission, defended it. He said unlike the 750 acres the county has already bought with the money, this purchase would produce cash flow, thanks to the continuing operation of the golf course. It is a creative way to make green space pay, he said.

The community division is reflected on the county Board of Commissioners. Two members are pushing the purchase, two are putting on the brakes, and Chairman Charles Laughinghouse is the swing vote.

Commissioner Patrick Bell, who is against it, said the controversy has frustrated him, overshadowing other business such as looming budget problems. The county is struggling with budgeting issues. For instance, Forsyth County is cutting SPLOST spending by 17.5 percent.

"We may need to take a step back from it for a while," he said.

But Commissioner Jim Boff, who helped negotiate terms of purchase, expressed frustration that the county has not already bought it. Almost no new park purchases have been in his District 5.

"There doesn't seem to be the spirit of cooperation that we had on other properties," he said.

More than 250 people turned out for a community meeting about the course three weeks ago. A majority of those attending supported the purchase. Boff and Commissioner Jim Harrell sponsored the meeting and talked openly about the deal, unlike other purchases whose details were worked out in executive sessions.

The public nature of Boff and Harrell's push and the other commissioners' resistance has garnered some of the public attention. Boff campaigned during his election to save the 172-acre golf course, which was nearly developed into a high-density housing development four years ago. Many residents began campaigning then for the county to buy the course.

"For some reason, the county made [the purchase] a public issue, and it just is not the way to do business," said Jack Manton, one of the course owners. "Some people say the county should be transparent with everything."

But that does not apply to land purchases, which laws allow to be handled in closed sessions so sellers cannot eavesdrop on their thinking and find a way to drive up the price.

"Now it seems like it is a dialogue of all the bloggers and the tweeters, and everyone has an opinion and no one is dealing with the facts," such as the price, Manton said.

Charles Meagher, the county's retired former chairman of the county Board of Tax Assessors, said county tax valuation puts the land at $3.6 million. He asked, if the course is worth $12 million, or about $68,000 an acre, why aren't others lined up to compete with the county?

"Because it's not worth it," Meagher said.

Manton said the course, just outside Cumming's city limits, is zoned agricultural, but property surrounding it has been rezoned residential or commercial and developed. The county's land use plan also lists his property as future high-density development. He is asking for a price in line with nearby development and the highest potential use of the property.

Harrell noted that other purchases of undeveloped land have cost $50,000 to $120,000 an acre. And the county had the land appraised last year.

Boff said, "All I can really say is the appraisal we had, in June I think, justifies that price."

Questions have been raised by residents about Manton's being a part owner in the company that will partner with the county to buy the land.

The deal Boff and Harrell negotiated would let Affiniti Golf Partners of Alpharetta, a course management firm, put $3 million toward the purchase price to run the course for 99 years.

Affiniti would also make $600,000 worth of course improvements and pay the county $2,500 a month. Forsyth would put up $9 million of the purchase price.

Manton said he will make a $3 million loan to Affiniti for the purchase. Banks are not lending to buy golf courses in these tough times, and this was one way to get the deal done, he said. If Affiniti were to go bankrupt, Forsyth would own the land, and Manton said he would be stuck with the bad loan.

Laughinghouse, who is the swing vote, has expressed interest in buying the land, though not necessarily as a golf course. He mused that perhaps a county vote on floating more bonds to buy the course would resolve the issue.

Boff said he could not anticipate when the commission might vote on the issue.

"I had hoped it would already be done, so I am not going to offer any new predictions," he said.


Cumming
Lake Lanier
FORSYTH COUNTY
Lanier Golf Club
8 miles

Spending green to buy greens?
Questions about a push by two Forsyth County commissioners to buy a golf course with bond money that voters approved for buying green space have roiled the political scene and community meetings. A community meeting near the golf course three weeks ago brought out hundreds of residents, many of whom supported the purchase, though others questioned the purchase price of $12 million or the wisdom of owning a golf course in tough economic times.

http://www.ajc.com/news/county-in-the-golf-378309.html

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Acrimony ends discussion of golf course purchase, for now

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 15th, 2011, 9:44 pm

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
By Christopher Quinn
Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Forsyth County attorney's attempt to get direction from county commissioners Tuesday on how to proceed with the possible purchase of a golf course descended into bickering among the commissioners, with one insulting another during one irritable exchange.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard's request for direction died shortly after Commissioner Patrick Bell called Commissioner Jim Boff "an idiot."

Boff and Commissioner Jim Harrell are in favor of the purchase of Lanier Golf Club with green space or park money and have procured a proposal by a golf course management company about a public-private venture to run the course.

Bell and Commissioner Brian Tam are against the purchase, citing the $12-million price tag in a down real estate market and the lack of a public bid process for the public-private venture.

Chairman Charles Laughinghouse split the issue, saying he was for the purchase of the 170-plus acres as green space, but not a golf course.

Jarrard said a second golf management company has expressed an interest in the public-private partnership.

"The board as a body has not directed me to work out a deal," Jarrard said. "I roll all this out there simply to ask the board for directions."

The discussion has been ongoing for months. Residents appear split as widely as the commissioners, some enthusiastic about the purchase and others questioning the price or appropriateness of a county-owned golf course. Government-owned courses around the state are losing money and courses, including the nearby Country Club of the South, are in financial trouble.

Jarrard was outlining competing bids from the golf management companies when Bell immediately interjected, "Why have we not opened this up for bid?"

Affiniti Golf Partners, the company Harrell and Boff have talked with about the public-private deal, offered to give the county $3 million of the purchase price in return for a 99-year lease of the course. A second company, Sequoia Golf, had come up with a similar deal, but said their proposals have not received a fair hearing.

"Based upon our vast acquisition experience with municipalities, we are surprised that Lanier Golf Club could change hands without public due process. We have never seen it done any other way," Brent Reid, an executive vice president with Sequoia Golf, stated in a February 19 letter to Jarrard and Harrell.

Harrell said after the meeting he considered Sequoia's proposal but Affiniti's appeared to be the best deal for the county.

The board's discussion descended into acrimony as the commissioners discussed the price and other recent park purchases. Harrell said it would take three votes to give him the go-ahead and that appeared unlikely.

http://www.ajc.com/news/acrimony-ends-d ... 59997.html

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Forsyth commissioner apologizes

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 15th, 2011, 9:50 pm

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
By Christopher Quinn
Monday, April 19, 2010

Forsyth County Commissioner Patrick Bell apologized Monday for calling fellow Commissioner Jim Boff an idiot last week during a heated discussion about the proposed county purchase of Lanier Golf Course.

"I want to apologize to Commissioner Boff, the Board of Commissioners and the public in the most sincere way I know how," Bell said. "That type of behavior is unacceptable for an elected official and will not be repeated by me. There is no excuse for it."

The exchange happened during a public work session of the commissioners. Bell opposes the purchase and Boff has pushed it. Bell said his passions and concerns about potentially spending $9 million during a recession got the best of him.

"The fact remains, however, that my comment was wrong and I will do my best to keep my emotions in check in the future."

http://www.ajc.com/news/forsyth-commiss ... 73755.html

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Nydia Tisdale
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Commissioner Patrick Bell offered plan of 9 holes of golf

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 15th, 2011, 10:05 pm

John Hall [johnhall@forsythnews.com]
To: Bell, Patrick B. 4/24/2010 4:06PM

Patrick

I took a stab at editing it. This is short enough to run if ok with you. Still gets the point across.

Let me know…

john

I read Ken Leach's letter to the editor and could not agree more about my behavior at the work session on 04/13. It was totally uncalled for and not the way I like to conduct myself. I have issued a public apology to Commissioner Boff and to the entire Board of Commissioners.

I don't buy into excuses and, the fact is, there simply is no excuse for my behavior.

I would like our citizens to understand my frustration. This golf course issue has been contentious and suspect long before I went into office. I fully support Commissioner Boff's right to present any issue for consideration, but I strongly disagree with the way this has been handled. It is being used as a wedge on other positive issues causing this board to ignore necessary planning.

The public is being misled about the appraisals that have been done and the commissioners pushing this issue are perfectly willing to pay millions of dollars over appraised value to appease a small constituency. The heated discussion last week led to the hijacking of my agenda item.

Despite what has been stated by the proponents of the golf course, I did present a plan to Commissioner Harrell on Jan. 19. I offered a plan that could preserve the 180 acres and offer something for all citizens that could become the recreation hub for the area — a plan which was rejected immediately. My plan preserved 9 holes of golf that could cover its costs, have over 75 acres of greenspace and offer a community center.

Every commissioner is aware the county will release bleak news about its financial condition in the near future. The board's lack of effort toward business growth (thereby creating jobs, additional sales tax revenue and increased property value) is shameful. Two years into the longest recession in modern history and we spend more time on a golf course than we have on effectively running the business of the people.

Sadly, here is what I predict for 2010: A general fund balance at the lowest point in history; a rise in the millage rate; increased water and sewer rates; sales tax collections at pre-2006 values; the tax digest will shrink by 10 percent and a potential downgrade of our bond rating. Yet, as a board, we are not being proactive in addressing these issues.

Mr. Leach, I apologize to you, the board and every citizen for my outburst. I hope I have the chance to earn your respect in the future.

From: Bell, Patrick B. [mailto:PBBell@forsythco.com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 20, 2010 7:37 AM
To: Kevin Atwill (FCN)
Cc: John Hall (FCN)
Subject: Letter

Attached is a revised letter. I have pared it down pretty far but am still a little over and don;t know how I can skinny it further.

If it is too long to publish I understand.

Patrick

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Patrick B. Bell | Commissioner, District 4
FORSYTHCOUNTY Board of Commissioners
110 East Main Street, Suite 210 | Cumming, GA 30040
Phone: 678-513-5884 | Fax: 770-781-2199
Email: PBBell@forsythco.com

*Please be aware that communications to me, or any other Forsyth County official or employee, is subject to open records requests and is not private or confidential between the parties.

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Three golf clubs interested in Lanier golf course site

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 15th, 2011, 11:57 pm

Ethics complaint filed against commissioner

ForsythNews.com
By Alyssa LaRenzie
May 9, 2010

A Forsyth County commissioner says that a recent ethics complaint against him is rooted in the ongoing battle over Lanier Golf Course.

In the complaint, which was filed with the county ethics board, Gerry Sullivan contends that Brian Tam has violated five sections of the county code.

Sullivan based his charge on Tam’s management position at Tam’s Backstage, a restaurant that has operated for about five years from a building the City of Cumming leases to Tam’s wife.

A date for a hearing on the complaint has not been set.

Sullivan, who lives near the golf course, declined to comment further on the matter Friday.

The complaint came up during the commission’s meeting Thursday.

Afterward, Tam said it was “worth pointing out that Sullivan is an active member of Lainer Lifestyles who advocates the county purchasing the Lanier Golf Course.”

“To date, I have not supported the county purchasing the golf course at the price or under the conditions or terms that have been proposed,” he said.

Commissioner Jim Boff, whose District 5 includes the golf course, asked Tam to recuse himself Thursday from voting on a proposed water contract offer to the city due to “his agreement with the City of Cumming for almost his entire livelihood.”

Citing the ethics complaint, County Attorney Ken Jarrard declined to offer an opinion on the best course of action for Tam.

“With respect to the decision of recusal, that is a situation that is typically in the province of the individual commissioner,” Jarrard said.

Tam did not recuse himself from the vote, which was 3-2 in favor with Tam and Commissioner Patrick Bell opposed.

The existing water contract is scheduled to expire in May 2012. The governments have been going back and forth on the matter for about four years.

Forsyth gets most of its water from Cumming, which has a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for withdrawals from Lake Lanier. The county does not.

Tam and Bell have said they think the offer is not in good faith and the price for treated water is too low.

The county has proposed the wholesale price for treated water at $1.80 per thousand gallons, with possible adjustment each year based on the Atlanta consumer price index, not to exceed 4 percent.

Under the current arrangement, the county pays $2.47 per thousand gallons.

According to Sullivan’s complaint against Tam, “due to the nature of the [restaurant] lease agreement ... there exists an ongoing conflict of interest between Brian Tam’s service as a Forsyth County elected official and his economic and pecuniary interest in Tam’s Backstage.”

It goes on to state that the family receives a “significant portion” of its income from the business and that the building is leased “significantly below the market value.”

Tam said Thursday his “voting record on these types of items speaks for itself.”

“Sometimes I vote with the city haters, sometimes I don’t,” he said.

He added that Boff was not privy to information about what constitutes his family’s income.

Bell said Boff’s recusal request was an “attack ... because [Boff’s] not getting his golf course.”

Commissioners Jim Harrell and Boff have proposed that the county buy the course for $12 million from owners Jack Manton and George Bagley Jr.

The county would then lease it for 99 years to a company that would maintain and operate it as a golf course.

So far, Affiniti Golf Partners and Sequoia Golf and Canongate Golf Clubs have expressed public interest in the plan.

Affiniti has offered to pay $3 million of the $12 million price tag and Sequoia officials say they’ll put up $3.5 million.

Opponents have taken exception to the price of the deal, citing tax filings that indicate the 172-acre site may be worth far less.

Complicating matters, the course is at the center of a lawsuit between the owners and county.

The owners sought legal action in 2007 after the commission denied their request to rezone the course from agricultural to a master planned district.

They planned to sell the site, contingent upon the rezoning, to a developer who wanted to build a 772-unit residential development with a 300-unit continuing care retirement community.

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Buying golf course is a bargain for the county

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 16th, 2011, 12:00 am

Letter to the editor
ForsythNews.com
May 22, 2010

I find it very interesting that the article on the ethics complaint against Commissioner Brian Tam in the Sunday May 9 Forsyth County News was placed on page 3A instead of the front page. This complaint, in my opinion, is more important than the article about a commission candidate who was disqualified because he lived outside his district.

At a time when the media is being criticized on being partial to a point of view rather than being a reporter of fact on an impartial basis, it would seem that the all charges of ethics violations should have been printed along with the Forsyth County code of ethics that pertain to the charges. This would allow the public to make an intelligent decision on the facts of the charge.

The headline for the article was about the ethics complaint, but much of the article referred to the purchase of the golf course with Mr. Tam saying that he has never supported the purchase. The old quid pro quo is easily forgotten. I wish that the person who Mr. Tam made the promise to would step up and tell him and the public about his promise of support of purchase.

Buying the golf course is a bargain at $53,000 an acre compared to the Harrison property at $133,000 per acre or the Buice property at $120,000 per acre. The last two properties will cost the county in development and maintenance fees. The price paid for those two properties is about four times the assessed value and the price for the golf course is about three times the assessed value based upon the county’s portion ($9 million). This is a consistent value for the county.

One purchase would generate an income and would be improved by a million dollars at no cost to the county. Why are Commissioners Bell and Tam so against the county acquiring 172 acres of beautiful land that will enhance the county’s green space, golf course or not? Would it have anything to do with the city’s desire to have Lanier developed for residential housing so that they can get the water and sewage revenue?

Ken Leach
Cumming

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COUNTY LOSES LANIER GOLF COURSE LAWSUIT

Post by Nydia Tisdale » June 16th, 2011, 12:03 am

Meadows Recommendation Could Cost Taxpayers Millions

Blogspot
By Pete Amos
July 1, 2010

CUMMING – “The Board of Commissioners made a flawed decision. Unfortunately, Forsyth County taxpayers will once again have to pick up the tab for the Board’s bad judgment,” said Pete Amos, the frontrunner for the District 1 seat on the Board of Commissioners.

Amos made his comment Tuesday after learning that Judge Roger E. Bradley had ruled against Forsyth County in a lawsuit filed by Lanier Golf Course owners Jack Manton and George Bagley, Jr.

“Commissioners followed some bad advice from my opponent, Brant Meadows, in denying a request to rezone the golf course from agricultural to master planned unit,” Amos said. “Now the burden for following his advice will fall on the taxpayers.”

Meadows, Amos’ opponent in the District 1 race, was a member of the Forsyth County Planning Commission when, against the professional planning staff recommendation, he joined the majority of the commission in voting to send a motion for denial of the rezoning request to the Board of Commissioners.

What the eventual cost to taxpayers will be is uncertain. Bradley told attorneys for Forsyth County and the course owners that he would weigh the orders they submitted in making his decision on what relief to grant the plaintiffs.

“My opponent says he wants to ensure everyone adheres to the UDC, but that request did comply with the UDC and the Land Use Map. It also had the approval of the county planning staff, the Georgia Mountain RDC and Georgia Regional Transportation Authority. So, it sounds like he believes everyone should adhere to the UDC but him.”

Course owners say the denial cost them a $35 million contract with Wellstone, LLC, which planned to build a residential development with a 300-unit continuing care retirement community. The golf course owners promptly sued the county, requesting not only that the property be rezoned to a more suitable zoning, but also requesting damages for the lost sale of the property.

http://peteamos.blogspot.com/2010/07/co ... wsuit.html

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