BAXTER -- Seventy-six Pine Meadows Golf Course members, former members, non-members, non-players, junior players, senior players, middle-aged players, men and women gathered in the Baxter course's upstairs banquet area to discuss one thing -- keeping golf in the Brainerd/Baxter area.
In an informational meeting Tuesday night hosted by Glen Gustafson, Brainerd, Terry McCollough, East Gull Lake, and Denny Palm, Crosslake, those 76 concerned Crow Wing County and Cass County residents were informed of the recent happenings between the three concerned men, Crow Wing County and David Mooty, president of Continental Golf Corp., which owns the golf course.
The group's two goals are to show the county the level of public concern about losing the golf course and to persuade Mooty to meet with county officials and negotiate a reasonable agreement.
"He tells me he really doesn't know what the golf course is worth," said Gustafson to the crowd. "He wants to look into investigating what he thinks he can get for it. ...
"I have encouraged him to be reasonable. Sure he's entitled to a profit, but at least be reasonable. If we can get him to the table to negotiate and to at least be reasonable on a price, where that's going to go I'm not sure."
No one from the county has contacted Mooty, but Gustafson is pleased with the excitement among a few of its commissioners.
"There are a couple of county commissioners who are very enthusiastic about doing this project," Gustafson told the crowd. "I think that what is unfortunate is that some of the county commissioners have said, at least in the paper, that they haven't really heard from anybody and that they don't know where people stand or what they think."
The group then was asked to write letters to their commissioners and spread the word of what the group is trying to accomplish.
A short question-and-answer session followed Gustafson's letter-writing plea. Discussion concerning Baxter City Council's lack of involvement, the true value of the 100-acre property and what could actually be done by the group was entertained. The unanimous consensus among the crowd was Pine Meadows, formally Brainerd Country Club and east of Mills Fleet Farm on Golf Course Drive, needed to remain a golf course.
The audience realized Mooty's new asking price of $5.5 million is too steep for the county.
"The biggest concern is the bidding keeps going up," said Palm. "The situation is very critical. The first numbers we heard were $3 million, $3.5 million and now I hear $5.5 million. We can't have a bidding war between the county board and the city of Baxter. ...
"One thing we need to do is get the county board to take a position and begin negotiating. If we don't, the next price we hear will be $6.5 million."
To dispel major financial concerns of taking Pine Meadows off the county tax roll, McCollough, Dispatch publisher, recited figures calculated by Roy Luukkonen, Crow Wing County auditor. He told the crowd that a $100,000 residential homestead in the city of Baxter would see a net increase of $1.13 per year. For a $500,000 commercial property in the city of Baxter, the increase would be $10.45 per year.
A homeowner in the Brainerd School District but outside the city limits of Baxter would see a net increase of 24 cents per year on a $100,000 home, McCollough said. A Crow Wing County homeowner, outside the school district, would see a net increase of 9 cents per year on a $100,000 home.
Many members of the audience expressed their emotional concerns. The majority of the group was in favor of saving Pine Meadows as a form of public recreation shared by everyone -- to keep the 18-hole course void of neon signs and shopping carts.
While the 76 people gathered in the clubhouse, many people walked or drove by the large clubhouse windows in white golf carts enjoying the very thing those 76 people are fighting to keep.
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
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