Why Soldotna opted not to buy Birch Ridge

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Thursday, April 24, 2014 2:49pm
  • News

The Soldotna City Council decided against purchasing the Birch Ridge Golf Course.  

A resolution instructing City Manager Mark Dixson to negotiate an agreement for the purchase of the land and water rights failed 4 to 2, with Linda Murphy and Pete Sprague voting in favor. The purchase would have cost the city $800,000, Dixson said.

Birch Ridge 0wner Pat Cowan, and general manager Nolan Rose proposed a drafted lease to the council, in a joint session, prior to the regularly scheduled meeting, Wednesday, April 23.

The proposal contained language specifying that the city would hire Rose as the facilities operator once it had purchased the land. Rose would then have been responsible for all liabilities, leaving the city with no further financial responsibility.

Rose would only be able to sell the land as a golf course if he were to retire. The plan has been in the works for almost a year between Patrick and Myrna. Cowan, real estate agent Wes drown and Mark Dixson.

Rose said he would support whatever plans the council chose to pursue as long as it meant keeping the course open. However, he said, his proposition would be easier than the city buying the land and pursuing a lease.

“I think there is agreement from both sides, that’s not an advantageous way to go,” Rose said.

Cowan said he would personally back Rose financially, if Rose were to bid on the contract.

Dixson said the contract would not be competitive enough for other companies to make a bid for. The council would be entering into a sole-source deal if they agreed to pass the resolution, he said.  

Mayor Nels Anderson asked the audience twice if there was anyone who wanted to speak against the purchase.

“We’ve received unanimous emails in favor,”Anderson said. No one rose to speak against the resolution.

At the end of the joint session, community supporters of the purchase immediately flooded the council meeting room, filling it to capacity.

Paul Whitney, who voted against the resolution, said it was a tough decision for him as he knowsmany supporters and belongs to local organizations that supported the resolution.

The crowd left after the resolution failed. Only a handful of seats remained filled in the council chambers.

Cowan said he was disappointed in the vote and said it would be a few days before he would be able to decide how to proceed.

Murphy, who had introduced the resolution, and said it’s failure would be the “death knell for the golf course.” The council had passed the chance simply to look at what kind of contract would even be possible, she said.

 

Council member Keith Baxter urged Cowan and Rose to look into thed the possibility of a grant from the Rasmussen Foundation.

The foundation has contributed funding to the Sterling Community Center, Kenai Peninsula Community Care Center’s gymnasium and the Soldotna Teen Center.

Council Member Meggean Bos said one of her biggest concerns was whether Soldotna residents wanted the city to purchased the land. Once the resolution failed she asked the Cowans to consider harnessing the overwhelming community support and to form a co-operative ownership and keep the course open.

 “Just because this has been voted down doesn’t mean we’re not willing to work with you and see if there isn’t a solution out there that we haven’t looked at,” said Dixson, facing Cowan and a few supporters who remained until the end of the meeting.

Cowan stood and personally thanked the members of the council for their consideration.

“Whether you voted for in favor or not, it doesn’t matter,” he said.

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