To sell or not to sell?
That was the question Nye County commissioners were faced with during their May 18 meeting, when the board addressed an item regarding a letter of interest received from realtor Leslie Moon on behalf of her client, Joseph C. Mitchell of Las Vegas.
The letter indicated Mitchell’s desire to purchase Lakeview Executive Golf Course, which the town of Pahrump acquired roughly three years ago for $350,000. Commissioners were tasked with deciding whether or not they would like to see the property formally offered for sale but the appetite for such a move was unclear. One board member, Leo Blundo, made it quite plain that he himself had no desire to see the golf course sold off but a majority of the other commissioners remarked that they simply did not know enough about the intentions of the prospective buyer and they would like more information before making a determination one way or the other.
“The executive golf course is right in the heart of my district. I know I have been very critical in the past, very critical of the process of how it was acquired by the town slash county, the process of how it’s been maintained, I have been critical all around,” Blundo told his fellow board members as the item was opened on May 18.
Despite these criticisms, Blundo asserted that he did not feel a sale would be a positive move, explaining his new position by stating, “I do not believe the constituents, the people around that area, would appreciate us letting go of it at this time. Believe me, I know what I have said on the record previously but we have a public golf course that we are working to bring to a level that continues to serve the public. I don’t see the benefit of selling it at this juncture.”
Blundo noted that the biggest concern of those who live around the Lakeview golf course is that the property could eventually be turned into some sort of residential development. While he acknowledged that the county could put restrictions on the deed that would require the property to remain as a golf course, he said he doesn’t want to take that path either, as he does not believe in placing restrictions on businesses.
“I don’t have an interest to sell at this time,” Blundo reiterated.
Nye County Commissioner Frank Carbone said he was very glad to hear Blundo’s change of heart regarding the course, remarking, “I know how you felt when it first happened. And it appears that, talking with the people around the area, you’re getting a little bit of a different feel of it and I appreciate that, that’s great, that’s good to hear.” Carbone noted that he himself felt that perhaps the time was not exactly ripe to pursue a sale, explaining that part of his hesitation arises from the unknowns surrounding Mitchell’s future plans.
According to the letter of interest submitted to the county, Mitchell is in fact looking to operate a golf course, with the letter reading, “My client is interested in tasking an experienced golf management company to successfully operate the course on a yearly basis.”
This statement was apparently not enough to satisfy the commission’s need for information, a fact made clear by the discussion that afternoon. Blundo also expressed his irritation that neither he nor any of the other commissioners had been personally contacted by those seeking to purchase the property but Nye County Commission Chair Debra Strickland, who is versed in real estate transactions, interpolated that this was not uncommon, stating that such conversations were generally opened with a letter of intent such as the county had received.
Commissioner Bruce Jabbour chimed in to state it might be easiest to simply ask the proposed buyer exactly what they would like to do with the course, stating, “And if their intention is to keep it a golf course, and to rehab the property, right, redevelop the property as a golf course, etcetera, then maybe we do put in a restriction (on the deed).”
As for commissioner Donna Cox, she too harbored fears that the property would ultimately be developed into housing. “I have a suspicion that this property has become very valuable for something other than a golf course,” Cox declared.
Strickland herself said she was pleased with the improvements that had been made to the greens at Lakeview golf course since the town had acquired it but she was still very concerned about the liabilities posed by the poor condition of the clubhouse.
“We bought this golf course and we received a lot of flack, that particular board did, a lot of flack about that. In retrospect, my son-in-law, who golfs avidly, and he was on that course last week and he said, ‘Oh my gosh, this course is in amazing condition.’ So management has been doing an excellent job. My concerns still remain about the clubhouse. The clubhouse is substandard,” she remarked.
To that statement, Blundo replied, “We’re working on that. There’s a lot of things coming with this golf course. They are not ready to come before the board yet because we are working on a couple of details but I promise you, there’s going to be some really good changes over there, positive steps forward.”
Carbone added, “It appears that the people around the golf course want to do some things.”
“So is the public going to get involved in making it better for us, then, to manage it?” Strickland asked, with Carbone responding, “It’s in their best interest.”
Nye County Comptroller Savannah Rucker jumped into the conversation to explain that Course Co., the company currently under contract with the town to manage the golf course, would be coming before the board at its Tuesday, June 15 meeting to provide its annual report and plan for the coming fiscal year, the information from which could effect how the commissioners view the situation.
Blundo, however, was not happy with the idea of postponing the item, remarking that the action before the board that morning was to determine if the county was at all interested in selling. He himself had made his position clear and he then made a motion to not sell the Lakeview Executive Golf Course, with a second from Jabbour.
Turning it over to public comment, commissioners listened as several residents spoke on the subject. Public opinion was split, with some arguing in favor of at least looking into selling while others staunchly opposed any such move.
Amargosa Valley resident John Bosta made a key point, noting that Great Basin Water Company may need to be consulted as the utility utilizes the golf course to dispose of effluent water. He also touched on what had happened when the old Willow Creek Golf Course had been abandoned by its owner, which resulted in deterioration of the property and a subsequent plummet in housing values around that particular course.
“This golf course is never going to make money. It’s a piece of crap, excuse my language,” Pahrump resident Richard Goldstein declared, adding that he did not believe many people actually used it, a point with which Ammie Nelson agreed.
Melissa Blundo, on the other hand, objected to the idea that people do not use the course, asserting that as a local small business owner, she sees plenty of golfers who dine at her restaurant, and utilize other local small businesses as well.
John Shewalter said he is not a golfer but friends and family of his who have mentioned Pahrump only know about it as a golfing destination. “In a time of talking about revitalization of our community, I think that anything that draws more people to our community, whether it’s a golf course, a swimming pool, a restaurant, a casino, is good for us,” he stated. “I’m more than happy to see some of my tax money go toward a golf course that enhances our community and helps to revitalize it.”
Further discussion ensued, with financial figures being brought into question. Rucker said she did not have all of the figures that afternoon but she would put together a balance sheet that would show exactly what funds had been invested over the past three years, while noting that yes, the county had been losing money on the course due to the necessary capital improvements being made.
As the often circular debate drew to a close, Cox concluded by saying, “I don’t have a problem with trying to see what they are wanting to offer, and get it off our backs. Because it’s been a white elephant from day one,” with Strickland adding, “We don’t have enough information.”
Nye County District Attorney Chris Arabia concurred that it might be worth it to ask the potential buyer their intention, adding that the county absolutely could include a condition on the deed that stipulates that land can only be used as a golf course.
Jabbour then withdrew his second, stating that he too would like as much information as possible before deciding.
Cox made a new motion to continue the item and direct staff to reach out to the interested party to obtain more information. Jabbour seconded the motion, which passed 3-2 with Blundo and Carbone against.
Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at email@example.com