My Turn: Tahoe City Golf Course – be part of the solution
TAHOE CITY, Calif. – The Tahoe City Public Utility District’s proposed purchase of the Tahoe City Golf Course for $5 million within the next 30 days is foolhardy and reckless.A proposed emergency helipad and water treatment facility have absolutely no relationship to future economic and social benefit. This defies more than 10 years of study, unanimous conclusions and vision.In 2007, TRPA announced the Community Enhancement Program, the stated purpose of which was “to encourage revitalization projects in downtown and recreation areas that demonstrate substantial environmental as well as social and economic benefit.”The Ad Hoc Tahoe City CEP Committee was formed to explore this encouraging opportunity, composed of a dozen Tahoe City stakeholders. The committee concluded, after months of discussion and due diligence, the critical first step toward social and economic revitalization would be public-private acquisition of the Tahoe City Golf Course, irrespective of a $20 (+-) million price tag. Clearly that was a number that could not be justified knowing the skeletons in the closet. But the Committee was not deterred.The Committee achieved solid interest in participation of this goal from Placer County RDA for additional downtown core parking; the California Tahoe Conservancy in view of recognized potential stream and SEZ restoration, the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association for potential recreation and park improvements; and equally important, a seasoned, qualified private resort hotel developer with interest in the grandfathered, but severely limited development envelope, and prospects for enlargement. A conference hotel was envisioned with 250 (+-) rooms. The players/partners offered to fund an appraisal with the sellers. Couldn’t get their support. The effort to proceed with the first step in the first step died. The rest is history without going into the defining political obstacles.The Tahoe City Community Plan identified TCGC as fundamental to the future of Tahoe City as an economic generator in several forms in an effort to reverse the precipitous decline in our economy, acknowledged by TRPA Executive Director Joanne Marchetta just last week.Numerous strategic planning documents – not the least of which are the Tahoe City Strategic Plan for Business Retention, Expansion and Attraction (Placer County, January 2000); North Lake Tahoe Redevelopment Report (PC RDA and NLTRA, December, 2005); and the Economic & Redevelopment Strategies for Kings Beach and Tahoe City (PC RDA, June 2007) – collectively embrace the vision and need to increase lodging bed base, add development elements that will improve parking, add pedestrian traffic to our retailers, expand tax base revenues and retain young family residents with job opportunity. These are re-occurring observations and themes in every report conclusion. Destination tourism expectations can be achieved by complementing downtown improvements and infrastructure made in recent years. It takes time, work, negotiation and patience by staying the course.The point is this. After a decade of negotiation, we now have a willing seller. Granted, the price is hard to justify when the comparable Ponderosa Golf Course in Truckee sold in 2008 for $3.12 million, an asset in far better condition and greater revenues. But there are potential public benefit elements in the TCGC property that add significant value in this instance.Spending $5 million without respecting a decade of study and clear solutions to our declining social and economic environment would be a travesty. There are enormous challenges with the site and the regulatory influences that will determine the future. It will take hundreds of thousands of dollars and years to determine what can be done to achieve such revitalization within these restraints.The proposed blind acquisition and uses by the TCPUD contradict every consideration put forth over the years. A $5 million expenditure of public funds is proposed on a short leash without addressing the most basic elements of investment discovery, consideration and responsibility.To quote Clint Eastwood, “this is half time. Start the engines.” We have a potentially rewarding future through solid planning, patience, negotiation and balance found in creative and productive uses. We’re all stakeholders in some form. Participate. Especially new and budding leadership. Be part of the solution. There can be a viable legacy that residents sculpture and achieve through perseverance and tenacity. Don’t fail to see and act on this opportunity. Michael Dunsford is a Truckee resident, within Placer County.