Meetings fail to yield agreement on golf course - Albuquerque Journal

Meetings fail to yield agreement on golf course

The fate of Rio Rancho’s golf course is still unclear, following meetings held this month among city officials, the golf course’s contract purchaser and representatives of homeowners near the golf course.

Mike Vidal, founder of the newly created neighborhood group, The 18, updated residents who lived near the golf course’s east and west nine holes at the Italian American Club on Wednesday. Between 80 and 100 residents attended the neighborhood meeting; no city official or representatives from the course’s purchaser were at the meeting.

Vidal was one of several neighborhood representatives who attended recent Friday meetings among the golf course’s contract purchaser Josh Skarsgard, Mayor Gregg Hull, City Manager Keith Riesberg and Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority’s executive engineer, Chuck Thomas.

The fate of the city's golf course, including the former driving range, is still up in the air. (Rio Rancho Observer Photo)
The fate of the city’s golf course, including the former driving range, is still up in the air. (Rio Rancho Observer Photo)

On March 3, the group met at City Hall for what was supposed to be the first of four meetings (scheduled March 10, 17 and 24) held to discuss the future of the golf course. Due to cancellations, Vidal said the group has only met twice, with a third meeting scheduled for this Friday.

Vidal said the golf course’s contract purchaser, Josh Skarsgard of Albuquerque’s Skarsgard Firm, is expected to purchase the property from Southwest Capital Bank by March 31.

Vidal said Skarsgard has tentative plans to develop 46 acres of the golf course’s west nine holes and 46 acres of the course’s east nine holes into single-family residential development. The remaining land, including the course’s north nine holes, would be under conservation easement and be considered open space.

Upkeep of the course’s ponds would be left to residents of The Islands and The Enclave.

Ideas regarding commercial development, as well as plans to build a senior living center and an apartment building, were introduced – and scrapped by Skarsgard – during the first two meetings, Vidal said. No proposed ideas during either meeting met with unanimous approval from the neighborhood representatives, he said.

Representatives from Pulte Homes were invited to the group’s second meeting, Vidal said, when Skarsgard introduced plans for residential development on portions of the golf course.

“Pulte Homes, they didn’t put forth any information, other than they were interested in the property,” Vidal said.

There’s three possible outcomes for the golf course, Vidal told the audience: The land becomes an open space; the land becomes developed with new houses; or the land returns to being a golf course. Regardless of the course’s fate, Vidal warned residents to consider the potential loss in property value that could occur to homes in the area.

“In my opinion, people outside of our community and the rest of Rio Rancho have said that, ‘It’s the golf course; who cares?’, but if that was in their backyard and they were facing 10 to 15 percent loss in property values, that hits home,” he said. “To a $200,000 home – that’s a lot of money.”

Residents who were members of The 18 should consider all available options to protect property values, Vidal said, including considering a potential lawsuit or outright purchasing the golf course. Vidal said if half of the residents near the course wrote checks for $2,200 each, the land could be purchased at a projected $3.3 million. As the meeting drew to a close, an informal vote was taken of “who would consider donating $3,000 to purchase the golf course” and a majority of hands in the room shot up.

Former mayor and current Central New Mexico Community College board member Tom Swisstack briefly addressed the crowd and said residents should consider further communications with the city about the golf course’s future.

“The city, in my opinion, is in a position to maybe sit down with you, as well as the county, the school district and SSCAFCA, to maybe do a public-private partnership to kind of find what might meet everyone’s needs as much as humanly possible,” Swisstack said.

Later, Vidal said he was hopeful that some sort of a deal could be made between Skarsgard and nearby residents following Skarsgard’s purchase of the land. Vidal said his ultimate goal was to minimize the potential financial impact Skarsgard’s deal might have on area residents and property values

“To keep the golf (course), yeah, would be great. I would love it but … I don’t want to lose my shirt on this,” he said.

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