The Crow Wing County Parks Advisory Committee is recommending the county purchase Pine Meadows Golf Course in Baxter.
The idea would be to retain the golf course, which is facing development pressures. Located within a block of Kohl's and Mills Fleet Farm in Baxter, Pine Meadows has been in the area for decades dating back to the days when passing cars had rumble seats. The course was purchased by Eden Prairie-based Continental Golf Corp. in 1994.
Late last fall, Dave Mooty, Continental Golf president, acknowledged the pressure to develop the course in a fast-growing area. In December 2003 at a membership meeting at the golf course Mooty estimated the land's worth at $1.5 million as a golf course and $3 million as a development. The county estimates the land's market value at $1,525,500.
Mooty was out of the country and unavailable for comment.
Last year Mooty said the addition of Kohl's was going to change the entire nature of that northwest corner off Highway 210, making Pine Meadows more attractive to developers. At the time he said Continental Golf was open to discussions about the potential for a municipal course.
Nate Huber (left) and Tim Bollum were using the Pine Meadows driving range Thursday night. This range land could become a community swimming pool.
That idea has been an undercurrent working throughout the Brainerd area. Glen Gustafson, Brainerd attorney, was one individual who spoke several times to Mike Kearns, Crow Wing County facilities and parks director, about the possibility of a municipal course. On July 14, Gustafson spoke to the parks committee and presented a list of reasons why the county should be involved. He said the committee members were enthusiastic about keeping Pine Meadows a golf course.
"It's a shame if we lose this golf course in this community," Gustafson said. "I'm hoping the county would pursue this acquisition absolutely."
Crow Wing County Commissioner Gary Walters is the board liaison to the committee. Walters said he expects commissioners will have questions on where the purchase money will come from, how a municipal course would affect tax rolls and whether the golf course would generate enough revenue to pay for itself. The county would likely borrow money to make any purchase and use golf course revenues to pay the debt, golf course employees and maintenance, Walters said.
"We don't know those things," he said, adding conceptually it was an interesting topic. "I want to make sure it will be done properly and it wouldn't affect the average taxpayer."
Panel offers rationale
Reasons why Crow Wing County should own the Pine Meadows Golf Course were presented to the county's Parks Advisory Committee in July. The committee recommended the county board look into buying the golf course to keep it in the community.
Reasons presented in writing by Brainerd attorney Glen Gustafson included:
* Green space (noting the course's proximity next to the Northland Arboretum).
* Driving range area would make a "terrific site for a public swimming pool."
* Possible recreational activities during winter months include cross country skiing and a possible tie-in with the skiing at the arboretum, as well as other hiking, snowshoeing and nature trails.
* No financial risk since the land could be sold for development to recoup an investment should the golf course not work.
* Existing building on premises includes other public uses such as meeting rooms, kitchen, teen center.
* Possible site for Elks organization potentially being displaced in downtown Brainerd by county master building plan.
* Waste water from Brainerd and Baxter could possibly be used for irrigation on the golf course.
* Low interest rates at present time.
* More commercial development not needed in that area.
* History and tradition of the golf course in the community.
* Acquiring the course is less expensive than development of a new course and the site is "irreplaceable."
* County can provide needed medium- to low-priced golf to county residents, "especially tremendous golf opportunities to youth and elders that will be lost if the golf course is developed."
The county board is likely to direct staff to look into those questions and see if they think the project is a good idea, Walters said.
Todd Holman, Baxter community development director, said fact-finding was initiated by Mooty when he asked staff what was allowable in terms of site development. Holman serves on the county's parks committee but has recused himself from the committee discussion on this topic. He did not attend the July 14 meeting.
The city of Baxter has a long-range plan dating back to 1996 that identifies a road going through the golf course to connect Cypress Drive and Wise Road. A Cypress Drive connection, on the south side of Highway 210, was mapped through the Dondelinger auto dealership property but the city has not acquired the land.
Another question for any development option at Pine Meadows revolves around storm water.
Storm water from paved surfaces and buildings, known as impervious surface, funnels from the Highway 371 and 210 area through Mills Fleet Farm eastward to the golf course, Northland Arboretum and ultimately to the Mississippi River. Holman said development along the golf course mandates storm water generated at the site be handled on site to the tune of a 100-year rain event. Such an event is identified as a 5.6-inch rain in a 24-hour period.
Heavy rain or fast snow melt has created more runoff than the water channel along the golf course and near Excelsior Road could handle. Holman said the city is aware of the problem and is trying to rectify it for the long term. The city of Baxter has not analyzed what development of the golf course would mean in terms of storm water or how much of the land is actually buildable.
The Crow Wing County Board is expected to hear the committee recommendation to purchase Pine Meadows at its Aug. 10 meeting.
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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