City manager/economic developer Ed Lowe, city attorney Alex Smith, Mayor Ross Norris, and some city council members addressed homeowner questions in a public hearing related to the City of Oneonta’s acquisition of the Heritage Golf Course and clubhouse. Speaking for the homeowners association, its secretary Debbie Clowdus presented three written, previously submitted questions association members prepared following a January 17 gathering they held.
The first sought clarification on any timetable the council may have for awarding bids following its established Feb. 11 bid closing time. Norris estimated the city could act within a week. Smith and councilman Hal Blackwood suggested the process might take a bit longer depending on the number of bids submitted.
Under that query lay an ancillary question as to city maintenance of the course in the interim. Once again, city officials indicated their intention to maintain the course on a minimal basis. Smith also noted the city has had utilities transferred to its accounts to assist in maintenance.
The second question addressed the city’s stated intention to seek rezoning of the course property. The association asked how that altered the present situation and what effect, if any, that would have on restrictions and property taxes for Heritage landowners.
Norris explained that all resident properties exist in R-1 zones. Lowe explained that the course and club house have remained zoned as agricultural. Councilor Richard Phillips offered that the change would not affect present houses and lots.
Clowdus advised that some properties lie within the course. Lowe agreed, identified those, and noted that for the time being those are zoned agricultural. He explained that agricultural is one of the least restrictive zoning categories and that R-1 the most restrictive residential. The city will seek to rezone all the Heritage property, including the aforementioned lots R-1.
The final written query asked of future possibilities for the course. Noting the bid stipulates the city will have first right of refusal should any new owner decide to sell, members asked of any restrictions the city might place on the presumed new owner should the city not exercise its first refusal right.
Basically, Lowe contended the planned rezoning should handle that question, but he and Smith theorized the city could assert very little if any additional control in such a situation should it arise. Councilman Danny Robinson reiterated that city officers intend to see the property remain a golf course.
Justin Odell asked his own question seeking to determine if the city had or would consider the possibility of maintaining ownership and leasing the course. Norris responded, “I think no, because we would still be in competition with [the other private course at] Limestone Springs.”
Smith held that the RFB (Request For Bids) is broad enough that the possibility for such does exist. Blackwood and Phillips echoed that appearing to indicate they would be open to that possibility.
Heritage resident Betty Ward thanked the council for members’ efforts to protect the property as it currently exists. Others have noted that the prior stated plan of the past owners had been to donate the property to the state as protected conservation land which would have meant the loss of the course.
In the regular meeting which occurred after that and another hearing, Lowe asked the council to request the planning and zoning commission to consider a request to rezone the property. Councilors moved and so voted.
Councilor Tonya Rogers introduced Kenneth Brooks and won council approval for his selection as the new city fire chief.
Members also voted to transfer almost four acres of city property at the intersection of Lemley Drive and Second Avenue West to the county as a planned site for a new DHR (Department of Human Resources) building. The council had held a very brief public hearing on that proposed transfer between its Heritage public hearing and regular meeting.
Phillips won approval to accept the lone bid of $750 for previously surplussed police department electronic equipment. Resident Lance Nolen had made that bid.
Councilor Nathaniel Butler joined Mayor Norris and councilors Blackwood, Phillips, Robinson, and Rogers for the January 22 meeting. The council holds its regular meetings the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 5:30 p.m. in city hall.