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Chamisa sale nears closing, water fix

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Chamisa Hills Country Club.

Chamisa Hills Country Club.

The prospective buyers of Chamisa Hills Country Club expect to close on the deal on time, with a solution to their water challenge in sight.

Local businessmen Jhett Browne and Robert Gallagher say the process is going well and they expect to close on the club on May 1, if not a little earlier.

“I believe that it will probably go through, beyond anything crazily unforeseen,” Browne said. “I do intend to buy this thing.”

Both men have said affordable water and revenue from the north nine holes for the club’s golf course are necessary. Their proposal for a reduced rate for recycled water, which irrigates the course now, sparked an ongoing discussion.

City Councilor Chuck Wilkins opposes reusing water for irrigation under the city’s pumping permit. He has proposed selling Well 4, which the city is about to cap, to the country club or allowing it to drill its own well.

The city would buy five acres of the golf course to turn into a site to re-inject recycled water into the aquifer, and that purchase would fund the drilling or purchase of Well 4, according to Wilkins’ proposal.

Then, the city would lease some of its water rights to the club for five to 10 years, giving owners time to buy their own water rights.

The lease cost would be equal to the price of water for the course at 20 percent of the potable irrigation water rate. The transactions would take place under a development agreement.

The idea hasn’t been fully vetted, but Browne and Gallagher are enthusiastic about it.

“I’ve said since Day 1, the course really needs to be on well water,” Browne said.

He said recycled water is too salty for good grass.

Wilkins’ proposal addresses the golf course’s long-term needs, finances and better grass, Browne said.

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to that man,” he said.

Gallagher said he was drafting the development agreement. Since he and Browne plan to add 50 or 60 positions to the country club staff, he said, the development of a renewed club is no different than a new business.

The reused water questions may take a while to settle, but Gallagher wants to move forward on the development agreement.

“We’re confident that can be done, and we’re confident it can be done in a timely manner,” he said.

Wilkins said he thought his proposal was the best possibility.

“It still needs to be vetted, to make sure we’ve covered all the bases on it,” he said.

The challenge of the north course, however, isn’t settled. Homeowners want it to remain open space.

Browne said developing the area into homes is the “least palatable option.” He wants to avoid ruining the north course for other people and thinks the club will eventually need it as a golf course.

“But we’ve got to raise money,” Browne said. “This course is not in the best shape.”

Gallagher said they need revenue from the north course for the first eight to 12 months to pay for renovations to the rest of the property.

He believes the north course can produce enough money without being developed, if the neighbors help.

Gallagher was disappointed that no organized process or plan had arisen from meetings with homeowners.

Browne said he’d offered to sell the north course to the homeowners as a group and then buy it back for an executive golf course in three to five years.

Gallagher said he and Browne might be able to make the area into a “target golf course” with limited green areas and short, par-three holes.

That would leave room for development of 40 high-end residential lots.

Gallagher said the two continue to meet with developers, but plan to protect home values even with development.

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