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Palm Coast Thursday, Sep. 17, 2015 3 years ago

Golf companies propose plans to turn derelict Ocean Palm Golf Club into working course

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The Flagler Beach City Commission will discuss the issue again in October.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Of three companies scheduled to present proposals for taking over Flagler Beach's Ocean Palm Golf Club property before the city Sept. 17, only one — Flagler Golf Management — enticed city commissioners and generated applause from an audience of about 40 locals who attended the meeting.

Another, Indigo Golf Club, canceled by email just hours before the meeting began, and a third, Pine Lakes Golf Club, said it wanted the city to invest money into renovating the course — something Flagler Beach has said it is not willing to do.

The city bought the 34-acre Ocean Pam Golf Club property in a foreclosure sale in 2013. It's now overgrown with weeds. A 2.94-acre parcel within it, the course's old driving range, remains in the hands of a private owner who's rebuffed the city's offers to buy, and several companies that have expressed interest in the old course in the past have said they couldn't run it without the range. 

The meeting Sept. 17 was a workshop of the city's alternative use committee — a citizen committee convened to determine what to do with the property — so there was no vote by Flagler Beach City Commissioners, although all of them attended. 

Flagler Golf Management, the company that generated the most enthusiam at the Sept. 17 meeting, was formed this past spring, and has local roots: Its registered agents are Flagler Beach resident Duane McDaniel and his cousin Terrence McManus, a Wellington, Florida resident

McManus, presenting his proposal to the committee and the commission, proposed a 40-year contract with a $1 lease for the first five years, after which the golf company would give the city 3% of the course's revenue, including revenue from the restaurant, for the following 35 years.

The company would put its own money into the course's renovation, and ask only that about $15,000 the city had budgeted for dealing with the golf course property's maintenance instead be put toward eradicating Brazilian peppers on the land. Even that, he said, wasn't a deal breaker.

"There's nothing for you to lose," McManus said. "You're not putting up any of your own cash; we're funding the project, and we're only funding it because we believe we can make it work."

More than once, the audience applauded as McManus spoke: when he said the company would create a scholarship fund for local teens, and when, replying to a question, he said the company wouldn't want to be overseen by the city in its regular operations.

"We're leasing the facility, we're spending our money to build it," he said. "We don't want to be micromanaged unless it's necessary."

He said Flagler Golf Management would get the course running in 120 days, and use Fazio Golf Design for its redesign. A shortened, irons-only driving range could be placed on the course property, he said, with a net at its rear to protect local homes. The course's putting green would remain.

Pine Lakes Golf Club, which runs the Pine Lakes course in Palm Coast, was more circumspect.

Operators Chris McClaren and Doreen Holl said they would expect the city to fund any major renovation on the property, since it belongs to the city — something the city has said it does not want to do. 

Holl held up the Pine Lakes course as an example of what they could do with a derelict golf property, but didn't present specific numbers, saying Pine Lakes Golf would like an expression of commitment from the city before investing the money and labor to come up with the details.

The company would need to inspect the property to see what it needs in terms of turf maintenance and irrigation, he said. 

"The renovation of this golf course is going to take a lot of time a lot of effort a lot of thought," McClaren said. "We're not prepared to put in that labor unless we have something to work from."

City Commissioner Joy McGrew wasn't impressed with Pine Lakes' presentation, nor with Indigo's failure to appear at the meeting. She wanted to move forward with Flagler Golf Management.

"I do believe that what has been presented with Flagler Golf Management is exactly what we asked for as far was what they can do with it," she said. "And that they want to do it in a fashion that allows them to do it in 120 days. I don't want to drag this out any longer."

The audience applauded.

"I just think that we've seen the presentations that were meant to be seen today, and I think that we need to make some kind of consensus out of tonight," she continued. 

Commissioner Steve Settle thought that premature.

"I thought were were here to begin a discussion," he said. "We've just had some professionals tell us that they need time to go down and look." He called the idea of coming to a consensus to go with Flagler Golf Management "ridiculous."

"If you think that we should just jump into something because it's the first offer that came along, I think that's totally wrong," he said to McGrew.

Flagler Beach Mayor Linda Provencher was wary as well. 

"This is our one chance to do this,"she said. "If we're wrong, we're going be looking at an overgrown field once again."

"Pine Lakes is looking for something that we're not willing to give unless we've all changed our minds," McGrew replied.

Commissioner Marshal Shupe agreed. "The city has already said, I think very clearly, we don't want to spend any more money down there," he said, addressing McClaren and Holl. "I'm listening to you tell us that you would like us to share in some of the costs of putting this back together as a golf course. ... And see, we don't want to spend any more."

The City Commission will discuss the issue again, and review proposals, at its second meeting in October. 

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