My Turn: Public purchase of TC golf course is about community
February 17, 2012
TAHOE CITY, Calif. and#8212; The recent and#8220;My Turnand#8221; article on the Tahoe City PUDand#8217;s purchase of the Tahoe City Golf Course called the idea and#8220;foolhardyand#8221; and and#8220;reckless.and#8221; Curiously (but not without some serious factual errors), the writer then went on to explain the many reasons public ownership makes perfect sense.
Full disclosure here. My wife works for the TCPUD. But the board of directors makes the decision on this purchase, and I have studied the golf course property for many years working for the Bechdolt family directly as well as private developers who were interested in purchasing the property themselves. That is where my perspective on this comes from.
The golf course property is severely constrained by environmental and regulatory factors. Developers have looked at the potential investment many times over the years and found that the odds are just too long for them to make a buck through grandiose development plans. The development business requires potential for profit, potential that has to get larger if the investment is more risky or takes more time.
A private developer is not going to purchase it and plan to run a golf course. What they would do is based on what they can make money doing. Thatand#8217;s capitalism 101. Nothing wrong with that, except that what they can make money doing under the existing constraints is not going to be consistent with what the community needs.
Today, based on the current price, environmental and regulatory constraints and real estate economics, the likely outcome of a private-party purchase is five custom estate homes (a.k.a. McMansions). The economic trickle down and social benefit of that to our community would be almost zero.
Public investment by the TCPUD and Resort Association will allow for the community to determine how the property should develop, and develop it should. The potential is there for enhancing recreation, whether it is golf, cross-country skiing, ice skating, all of the above, or any number of other things that a private investor wouldnand#8217;t make a dime doing themselves. The potential is there for better parking and access along the rear of town, and opening up pedestrian corridors between the sidewalk and the golf course to improve retail access and visibility. The potential is there for a boutique hotel with a cafe. Combine these ideas with other properties along the strip and a new, vibrant vision for Tahoe City starts to take shape. The Redevelopment Agency (public) saw this potential too, and was working on exactly these ideas for the property before they were dissolved by the governor of California.
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The private sector must be part of the solution. It will take private investment to make things happen like a hotel, or redevelopment of the commercial core. Public ownership of the golf course will help ensure that these ideas are not only vetted fully, but are not precluded in the new TRPA Regional Plan and future Local Plans. Ideally, by the time private partners are ready to invest, the risk has been reduced to something manageable, and we might actually see changes instead of just dreaming about them.
The facts are that the investment due diligence by the TCPUD has been exhaustive, and includes all that work that has been done by the public, planning agencies and private developers over the last couple of decades. Nothing about this process has been and#8220;recklessand#8221; or and#8220;foolhardyand#8221; as the prior author suggested. And all of it points to public ownership as a necessity if the golf course property is to become fully integrated into our economic and social fabric.
The legacy of the Bechdolt family is about supporting community. The Tahoe City Golf Course is where that occurred, whether it was for golf tournaments to benefit youth, giving up land for business, or growth, or schools; weddings, wakes, and multitudes of other community events. Public ownership of this property is the only way to ensure that legacy lives on, and our community will be better for it.
Wally Auerbach is a long-time Tahoe City resident and business owner.