Germantown board votes down proposal to buy golf course
Cost, other expenses sway board
Germantown — While Monday night's agenda stated officials could go into closed session to discuss the potential purchase agreement for Blackstone Creek Golf Course, the Village Board stayed in open session and voted, 8-1, against moving forward.
The village was debating buying 153 acres of land from Troy Schmidt and Frank Romano for $5,350 per acre. The intent was to develop a long-range plan to ultimately turn the land into a public park that would be in the heart of the village. In turn, Schmidt and Romano would start developing a 40-acre parcel along Mequon Road with retail, and single- and multifamily housing. The land swap would close the golf course.
The clock was ticking on a board decision. The village entered into a 45-day due diligence period with Schmidt and Romano for the prospective purchase. The deadline to provide an answer to the property owners was Dec. 18.
Many of the Village Board members saw merit in the park proposal, but had concerns about the financial implications — particularly in light of a long list of existing capital projects in 2014 and such unknowns as insurance benefits in 2015 and beyond.
"I personally am not prepared to approve this tonight," Trustee Terri Kaminski said. "If someone comes up with the money, I'm all ears. But I look at our expenses, and I don't see how we can afford it."
Village President Dean Wolter was the sole dissenter of the motion to deny the purchase agreement. Wolter acknowledged the board's financial concerns, but said he believed the acquisition could have been pivotal in providing a destination spot within the community.
"This could've helped develop a community center," Wolter said. "Sometimes we need to look at the future and evaluate where we're going as a village."
During the public comment portion of Monday's meeting, five residents spoke against the purchase proposal. One speaker suggested the board take the issue to referendum. As the board deliberated, Trustee Shane Daniels inquired whether it was a worthy suggestion.
"It seems there's a general consensus against this at this time," Daniels said of the board's view. "But maybe we should take this to a referendum. It seems like it is a big enough ticket item to be taking to the full community."
Village Attorney Brian Sajdak said the board could have gone forward with a referendum. But Sajdak said the site's current private property status could have been a complicating factor.
The decision on Monday came after an informational meeting was held last week to gauge public opinion on the proposal. Differing opinions emerged as dozens of people filled Germantown Village Hall to discuss the fate of the golf course.
Some residents were in favor of the proposal. They saw the need for more recreational opportunities for children and young families, including more baseball, softball and soccer fields. Others said if the village loses the golf course, it's losing one of its most valuable amenities.
"The golf course is an asset to the community," Germantown resident Marv Klowak said. "There's a lot of recreation for all ages, it brings in jobs, stimulates the economy. We've lived here for 20 years and, for me, the golf course was one of the factors of why we moved here."
Even though the land deal did not go through, there is no guarantee the golf course will remain open, Wolter said. If the village doesn't buy it and it's sold, there's a chance no one in Germantown could use it.
"I can't promise it's going to be a golf course two years from now," Wolter told a group of people gathered around him last week.
Some residents, such as Ellen and Gary Konop, said if the village has to purchase the land to keep it as a public amenity, then they should. They said they would use the park to cross country ski. Resident Michelle Klowak said turning the golf course into a park is "disappointing."
At the public information meeting prior to the board's vote, Schmidt said if the proposal fails that they will have to go back to the drawing board to determine the future of the parcel. Other entities, such as the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, have expressed interest in the land.
"That's why the village is doing the right thing, stepping up and buying it so they can have control over it," Schmidt said last week.
Now that the deal is off the table, the golf course will remain open, its future unknown.
— Additional reporting by Dave Fidlin
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