Greater transparency needed in golf course deal | Editorials

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Eagle Editorial Board

The deal to accept the gift of the former Briarcrest Golf Course may prove to be beneficial to the residents of Bryan, but it is hard to know because so many questions remain unanswered. As troubling as that is, the lack of sufficient time for input by the residents of Bryan is concerning.

Although Bryan city staffers had been working on the deal to accept the Briarcrest course and turn it into the municipal course since August, it was not until Dec. 8 that the plan was announced. And, after hearing from several residents who objected to the plan — and some who lauded it — the Bryan City Council approved the deal on December 12, only five days later — and two of those days fell on the weekend.

That didn’t give residents of Bryan much time to consider the issue and possibly raise objections — and that may have been the goal.

The plan to operate the City Course at the Phillips Event Center includes closing the current Travis B. Bryan Municipal Golf Course that has been operated by the city for decades and turning it into a much-needed super park with a variety of playing fields and other amenities. Were other locations for the superpark investigated?

Bryan Muni has been the target of Council members who want to put it to other uses for years. As city parkland, it cannot be sold without voter approval. In the only election on the matter — one that perhaps purposely was worded in confusing fashion — Bryan voters affirmed they wanted to keep Muni as parkland, implicitly as a public golf course. At the same time, voters rejected a non-binding referendum on buying the then-private Briarcrest Country Club for $2 million.

Efforts to convert Muni since then have been met with opposition from the community.

This time, the Council avoided the inconvenience of public discussion by foreshortening discussion over what apparently was a done deal before it even was made public. Of course, the deal is different this time with the generous donation of the course by developer Wallace Phillips, who bought Briarcrest in 2013 and allowed the public to play there. Phillips will keep ownership of the Phillips Event Center, the pro shop, pool, tennis courts and other amenities. The city will have right of first refusal to purchase those amenities should Phillips ever decide to sell.

Phillips’ donation is valued at $4.85 million.

The city says it expects to lose $200,000 on its annual $1 million annual expenditure on Bryan Muni. It anticipates more golfers will use the new City Course at Phillips Event Center and projects at least breaking even on the course operations.

As we said, this may prove to be a very good deal, indeed, and we hope it does. But it seems like Council members thought of everything but the people they work for: the residents of Bryan.

More time should have been allowed for public hearings to answer questions residents might have, particularly when in the only vote held on the issue the people said they wanted to keep Bryan Municipal where it is.



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