LOUISBURG — Cattle could soon be grazing where golfers once tread.
After reviewing projected costs and a 15-minute executive session to discuss property acquisition, the Louisburg City Council at its meeting Monday, Oct. 7, passed on assuming operation of the former Metcalf Ridge golf course that has been closed for a number of weeks.
The issue died after Sandy Harris’ motion to allow staff to pursue interest in operations of the golf course failed on a 2-3 vote. Council members Thorvald McKiearnan, Lee Baer and Kalee Smith voted no, leaving only council member Steve Town supporting Harris in his motion. The mayor does not vote unless needed as a tiebreaker.
Harris’ motion was contingent on city staff finding a funding combination to acquire the property. The asking price is $2 million, City Administer Nathan Law said in a mid-September memo.
At a council meeting Sept. 16, Law said owner David Welch intends to fence the property and lease the land for cattle grazing if the city or another party didn’t want to purchase the golf course, which is located at 6302 W. 295th St.
Law provided revenue and expense projections through 2024 that indicated a budget transfer totaling $1.375 million for that five-year period would be needed to cover expenses not supported by operational revenues.
Law said the course’s driving range had already been sold, along with most of the course’s equipment. Law’s written report estimated equipment would cost $710,000 to purchase, or $115,000 per year for seven years under a lease-purchase agreement. The cost to lease golf carts was estimated at $68,000 per year.
In addition, Law said a number of infrastructure improvements would be necessary.
Private investment would have been necessary to acquire the property, council and staff agreed.
Earlier during Monday’s meeting, Louisburg civic leaders and business professionals Craig Holtzen and Andy Hill urged the City Council to save the golf course.
Holtzen said his understanding was that a potentially significant investor would be interested in helping acquire the property if it remained a golf course. He cited the economic benefits Metcalf Ridge has meant to the community through the years, attracting players from throughout the area to the Louisburg course.
He also pointed out the number of charitable tournaments that have been conducted at the course that have benefited the community.
“I would say I’m committed enough to this, and I know a number of other people who are committed enough to it too that they would be willing to put in some of their own money … these are high quality people that are committed to it.
“My ask of you is as you get a chance to review this and talk about it more, be courageous to look at the economic opportunity and not just the down side of what it may cost,” Holtzen said. “Think about how the community is better for it. There are people in the community who want to participate in this to help make it something that can work.”
Hill also cited the economic benefits and the number of fundraising tournaments for charitable causes that have helped community members of all ages — including providing high school scholarship money for graduating seniors. He also touched on the quality of life benefits the course provides.
“I don’t think people will move out of Louisburg based on not having a golf course, but I can guarantee you there are people who will not move to a community that does not have a golf course,” Hill said.
He said the clubhouse could be used for a number of functions, and youth and adult lessons could be offered by the Louisburg Recreation Commission.
Hill acknowledged the course has deteriorated over time, but he noted infrastructure improvements would not need to happen overnight.
“I think anybody that’s looking for you guys to purchase the golf course doesn’t look for you to turn it around and get it back up to 100 percent immediately,” Hill said. “… I know it may seem like a stretch to purchase the golf course, but I would like for the City Council to reach out and grab the economic benefits, the recreational opportunities for the rec commission and potential future residents and the fundraising opportunities.”
Council member Smith said no one wants to see the golf course go away. But she and council members Baer and McKiearnan questioned where the $1.3 million budget transfer would come from.
“What are we not spending $1.3 million on that we would be transferring?” Baer asked.
In an Oct. 4 memo, Law indicated funds could be repurposed from existing reserves, including sales tax for the aquatic center, infrastructure improvement sales tax that will sunset in 2029 or redirecting general fund sales tax or revenue and budget authority.
McKiearnan said that $1.3 million could benefit the city in other ways like much needed stormwater improvements.
“I personally in good conscience could not spend that kind of money on a golf course when there are so many things that we need in this community besides golf. I’m sorry,” McKiearnan said. “That is a huge amount of money that would go a long ways into fixing some problems that we’ve had for 30-plus years.”