Article Courtesy of Florida
By Dave Berman
Published March 22, 2018
It looks like Brevard County's three golf courses will be out of the county's
hands by October.
County commissioners on Tuesday voted 4-1 to approve transferring The Savannahs
golf course on Merritt Island to The Savannahs at Sykes Creek Homeowners'
Interim Assistant Brevard County Manager Jim Liesenfelt said he hopes this
transfer could take place by May 1.
Separately, commissioners voted 5-0 to work toward reaching a deal to transfer
operation of two county-owned south Brevard golf courses to a new nonprofit
organization of local residents called Golf Brevard. Those courses are The
Habitat in Grant-Valkaria and Spessard Holland, which is south of Melbourne
"It's very exciting," County Commission Chair Rita Pritchett said, referring to
the county being poised to get out of golf course operations.
The golf course business has proven to be a financial strain for the county and
its Parks and Recreation Department.
The Habitat and The Savannahs are 18-hole, par-72 courses. Spessard Holland is
an 18-hole, par-67 course.
Spessard Holland, south of Melbourne Beach, is an
18-hole, par-67 course.
Under the revised offer that was presented Tuesday by Sonia Bosinger, an
attorney for The Savannahs at Sykes Creek Homeowners' Association:
The Savannahs golf course would revert to the homeowners'
association, and a newly formed community development district would lease
the golf course property from the association for at least 25 years.
The county would pay the community development district
$700,000 to cover deferred maintenance on the course in two annual payments
of $350,000. (That's down from a previous offer Bosinger discussed last
week, in which the county would pay the community development district
$960,000 in three annual payments of $320,000.)
The county would provide the community development
district a $1.2 million line of credit for use in golf course operations and
capital improvements with a fixed interest rate of 2.75 percent to be repaid
over 15 years. The community development district would be able to draw from
the line of credit for 24 months after the loan closes. The homeowners'
association would obtain what's known as a "surety bond" to collateralize
the line of credit, assuring that the county would get its money back. (The
interest rate was raised from a previous offer of 1.25 percent.)
In a newly added provision, the HOA agreed not to sell
the golf course property for at least 10 years or until money from the line
of credit is paid in full, whichever term is longer. If the golf course
fails financially, however, the HOA would have the right to sell the course,
subject to county zoning rules.
Bosinger told county commissioners this offer is the best the HOA could make.
"We don't want to be the used car salesman that goes back and forth" in the
negotiations, Bosinger said.
County Commission Vice Chair Kristine Isnardi said the agreement "is not
perfect," but she said it is "a good compromise."
County Commissioner John Tobia voted against the proposal, although he said it
was "closer to where we should be on this."
Tobia said he would have voted in favor of up to $450,000 in payments to cover
deferred maintenance on the course.
But Tobia said $700,000 was too much, noting that "$700,000 in a tight budget is
not chump change, to say the least."
Tobia said the $450,000 would represent the county's expected financial losses
if it kept running The Savannahs for the next 2½ years. That's the time period
it could take for a potential lawsuit by the homeowners' association to be
decided if the county did not sign this agreement and instead tried to hand the
course back to the HOA.
Habitat, Spessard Holland deal
Under Golf Brevard's proposal for The Habitat and Spessard Holland, as presented
by Tom Becker of Indialantic, who chairs the 10-member Golf Brevard Steering
The county would assist Golf Brevard with transition
costs, deferred maintenance and potential losses totaling $250,000. Of that,
$100,000 would be paid by Nov. 1 with the balance of $150,000 paid by Dec.
Golf Brevard would start to repay the county's initial
transition fund of $250,000 when the nonprofit's financial reserves reach
Golf Brevard also dropped its initial request for a
$200,000 line of credit.
Becker said Golf Brevard will work with county staff to finalize the deal so
Golf Brevard takes over operation of the courses no later than Oct. 1.
Becker said, though, that he didn't want to rush the process so that it could
assure that a smooth transition of the courses takes place.
He said Golf Brevard first wants to line up a manager of golf operations for the
Isnardi agreed that the process should not be rushed, as she said happened when
a management company called Integrity Golf Co. LLC took over operations of the
three courses, starting Feb. 1, 2016. In July 2017, Integrity notified the
county that it was terminating the management agreements, effective July 30,
because it was losing money on the operation.
"I don't want to set you up for failure," Isnardi told Becker. "I don't want the
courses to go away."
Brevard County Manager Frank Abbate said the county would aim to have the deal
with Golf Brevard completed by August or September.
Commissioners in July unanimously decided to have International Golf Maintenance
Inc. temporarily provide operation and maintenance services for the three
courses while the County Commission considered long-term options.
Commissioners in October directed the county attorney's office to begin legal
action against Integrity, for its alleged breach of its 10-year agreement with