Bloomington calls for golf course development proposals

The city is moving too fast in exploring its options for developing an unused portion of the Hyland Greens Golf and Learning Center, according to numerous Bloomington residents who aired their concerns last week.

Despite that, the council is moving ahead with a request for proposals to develop 9.5 acres of unused land on the east side of the golf course. The parcel is adjacent to Normandale Boulevard and is the site of the golf course’s former driving range.

The request for proposals isn’t a decision to develop the land, it’s an invitation for developers to propose residential options for the parcel, with the intent that the sale and development of the land would subsidize the existing golf course, which has been losing money for years, according to city officials.

Residents lined up during the Bloomington City Council’s June 26 meeting to oppose the council’s entertaining of the idea. Comments suggested that marketing and other efforts to stop the financial hemorrhaging of the golf course haven’t had enough time to take effect, that any development of the property would create traffic nightmares in the neighborhood and that maintaining the parcel as green space is in the city’s best interest.

The council’s entertaining of proposals is the result of a recommendation from a task force that was organized in 2015 to investigate and recommend options for the future of the site.

The task force provided several recommendations for the council to consider, with the intent of maintaining the golf course, which comprises nine holes and a driving range.

The task force was asked to study the financial performance and forecasts of the golf course, identify causes of the financial woes, consider alternatives for the future of the site and submit recommendations to the council, according to Diane Kirby, the city’s director of community services.

The task force made two major recommendations, continue to operate the golf course with implementation of measures to improve the bottom line and look at development of the former driving range parcel, Kirby said. The latter recommendation is what brought many residents to the council meeting, as the council was holding a public hearing for issuing a request for sale and development proposals for the parcel, she noted.

Despite the task force’s recommendations, issuing a request for proposals didn’t sit well with Laura Perreault, a neighborhood resident who served on the task force. She argued that the moving forward with the request did not align with the task force’s recommendations of improving the financial viability of the golf course through marketing and management changes, determined in part through a consultant that was hired to review the city’s overall golf operations, which includes Dwan Golf Club.

Mayor Gene Winstead was adamant that asking for development proposals was not out of line with the task force recommendations. He asked Kirby to affirm that the recommendations of the task force were not intended to be sequential. Kirby said that the recommendations were intended to be hand-in-hand.

A request for proposals will allow the city greater discretion in any development of the former driving range parcel. The city has the option to sell the parcel through a competitive bidding process, but by requesting development proposals prior to any sale of the property, the council has the ability to consider factors beyond a sale price, according to Planning Manager Glen Markegard.

A request for proposals allows the city to express its preferences for the property, such as the density of the development, architecture and inclusion of affordable housing. The council would also be able to consider the track record of the developers, Markegard noted.

Should the council receive a proposal it deems acceptable, the city and developer then negotiate purchase and development agreements, followed by applications for development approval. Upon completion of those, the city would then close a sale of the property. If the council chooses a development option from the proposals submitted, the process could be completed by May 2018, Markegard explained.

Any development of the land is intended to help sustain Hyland Greens, a privately developed golf course that the city purchased in 1974 for $92,000. With a decrease in golf nationwide for the last decade or more, many facilities have been affected. Hyland Greens generated approximately 60,000 rounds of golf between its two nine-hole courses in 2000. The shorter of the two courses was removed in 2012 to make way for a larger driving range. And foot golf, a hybrid golf game using a soccer ball, was introduced in 2014. Despite that, the course’s single nine-hole course generated about 18,000 rounds last year, according to Kirby. “Hyland Greens has continued to struggle,” she said, noting that the facility has been operating in the red since 2007.

After extensive deliberation by the council, including consideration of tabling the request for proposals, the council approved the step.

Information about the Hyland Greens Task Force’s work and recommendations is available online at tr.im/taskforce.

 

Follow Bloomington community editor Mike Hanks on Twitter at @suncurrent and on Facebook at suncurrentcentral.