Montgomery Village leaders contemplate future of golf course
Board member requests discussion at December meeting
As autumn leaves drift across the Montgomery Village Golf Course, another colorful notion is catching wind nearby.
While a developer ponders purchasing the golf course in 2015, at least one Montgomery Village Foundation board member is considering an earlier grab for the green space.
After seeing a 2009 appraisal of $1.6 million for the land, board member Pamela Bort wondered whether the foundation could buy the course.
"One of the advantages of the village is we are one of the few green spaces in Montgomery County," Bort said. "A lot of us would like to keep it that way."
Bort said she has asked if the golf course could be added to the agenda for the Dec. 8 board meeting, to be discussed during the section for board member concerns.
Owner Jack Doser has said the golf course does not make money and he cannot figure out how to make it profitable.
If Montgomery Village were to purchase the land, Bort said, the foundation could keep it as a golf course but operate it differently, or make it into parkland.
Dave Humpton, the foundation's executive vice president, said the purchase of the golf course has not been officially proposed for the board's consideration, and he has not discussed the option with board members.
With zoning codes to reopen in 2015 after being fixed for 50 years, Doser told the board in October that he had entered an agreement with Bethesda-based The Artery Group, LLC, to study residential development on the land.
Bernard J. Rafferty, senior vice president of Artery, shared the initial findings of a study on the best use of the 148 acres of the 18-hole, par-71 course on Nov. 8 with about 70 residents, golfers and others.
Artery's study focused on building houses and townhouses on the northern two parcels of the course, holes two through nine, Rafferty said.
Residents and board members told Rafferty and Doser that they did not want to see their green space replaced with development.
Could the foundation afford it?
With $11.6 million in assets and no outstanding debt, Greg Snellings, Montgomery Village Foundation director of finance and administration, said the foundation is well positioned for such a land purchase.
"Anything is possible," Snellings said. "It's possible, yes, but what is the probability? I think we are very premature in evaluating the probability."
Jim Deye, a board member who discussed the option with Bort, wondered how Montgomery Village would finance the golf course operations.
"I don't know if we would be more successful at operating it than Doser," Deye said. "I don't think we would, looking at the face value of what he says about the business operations."
If Montgomery Village was to turn the land into open space, Deye and Snellings share concerns about maintenance and security.
"It would be a nice asset to the village," Snellings said, "but it would not be an inexpensive proposition, from the purchase and maintenance perspectives."
Deye originally thought Montgomery Village could use part of the $6.3 million in the reserves fund to buy the course, but after speaking to other board members he said the fund, which is designated for replacement of community amenities, could not be used to purchase something new.
Snellings said he believes the board can take money from the reserves for other projects if deemed necessary.
The reserves fund, and the board's goal of contributing more than $700,000 to it annually, is a highly-watched, hot topic among residents who speak out at board meetings. Resident assessment fees, which feed the reserves fund, were increased for 2011, causing residents to question why such a large amount was being saved annually.
"Short of going into debt, I don't see it working," Deye said.
Humpton said the option of incurring debt on the golf course purchase would be a policy issue for the board to consider.
The foundation is in a good position to acquire outside funding, according to Snellings.
"I don't see an issue in going to the banks," he said.