Meeting on Aug. 14 at Pro Shop
By Tim Fleischer Editor-in-Chief
MCCC, LLC withdrew on Friday, August 10 from negotiating with the Village of Salado for the possible purchase of the Mill Creek Golf Course, following a two-and-a-half hour town hall style meeting the night before during which VIllage Administrator Don Ferguson announced that the Village was pursuing re-zoning the golf course.
“I look out and see the ownership of this golf course and I can tell you that not one of us got into this (the purchase of Mill Creek in 2014) to close this golf course and see it go to seed,” Ron Gravette told an audience of more than 300 who filled the Salado Intermediate School cafetorium on Aug, 9. “My goal was to get Creek One back open and to play it one time.”
At the time the group stepped in to purchase the course from Morris Foster, an effort had been led by a golf pro from Austin named Terry Dill who was trying to gather 300 $10,000 or more donations in late 2013 and early 2014. The Dill group claimed at the time to have about $700,000 in commitments. The majority of those commitments turned out to be the core group that Billy Helm brought together to purchase the course in July 2014.
Over the next four years, the ownership group worked on all of the closed Creek holes, some of which had been closed for nine years and others since the flood of 2010. The Creek holes are the signature holes for Mill Creek, which was designed by famed golf course architect Robert Trent Jones II. Jones came back to Salado to design nine more holes, which were opened in the early 2000s. Along those holes the new Mill Creek sprang to life.
The group approached the Village about the purchase of the property early this year in hopes of finding a permanent solution for the future of the golf course, according to Gravette.
“This isn’t a black and white issue, Skip, this is greens,” Gravette said, “fairways, lakes, creeks, a pride of ownership, views… it is our opinion that the highest and best use of this facility is to be a part of the Village of Salado.”
As he took the microphone from Gravette, Ferguson told the audience, “They will get the opportunity to stand up at the zoning hearing because the city is about to zone the property golf course.”
Gravette and Helm told Salado Village Voice that they first heard of the rezoning of the golf course property earlier in the day Aug.9, in a pre-meeting before the town hall meeting.
In an email to aldermen and copied to Gravette on Aug. 10, Ferguson stated, “Helms and Ron Gravette just left my office after telling me that they were pulling their offer to sell the golf course to the Village. They were extremely upset to hear last night at the meeting that the Village was moving forward with rezoning of the golf course property. They claim the Village is negotiating in bad faith by doing so.”
“I reminded them that I had previously advised them of the Village’s intent to rezone the property to reflect its current use,” Ferguson said. “Mr. Gravette indicated he was unaware of such. Mr. Helms said he remembered discussing it but thought we would be doing that if we acquired the property.”
“Mr. Gravette contends we have no right to rezone private property without the owner’s permission but I advised him that was not the case and that the Village can initiate zoning on any property,” Ferguson stated.
No notice to rezone has been published, nor have nearby property owners been informed of a zoning hearing, two requirements in the Zoning Ordinance to rezone property.
The current use as a golf course is one of the Land Uses that are allowed (with a Conditional Use Permit) in all of the Districts defined in the Zoning Ordinance as Single Family Residential. While Mill Creek was not issued a CUP when the Zoning Ordinance was first adopted (or in any of its amended forms), it would appear to be unnecessary to do so because the golf course had been operating as such for years before Salado was ever incorporated. Its continued use would be allowed under the Zoning Ordinance at its adoption. The Village did not require the new owners of MIll Creek to apply for a CUP in 2014. Nor did they require the previous owner Morris Foster to apply for a CUP when he purchased the course.
In order to rezone the golf course property, the Village would first have to amend its Zoning Ordinance. The golf course, as well as all of Mill Creek, is zoned Single Family Residential. The current Zoning Ordinance does not have a Zoning District labeled “Golf Course.” The Planning and Zoning Commission would have to add that District Zone definition to the Ordinance, as well as any regulations for the newly created Zone “Golf Course.”
None of the 2018 agendas for either the Planning and Zoning Commission or the Board of Aldermen have any discussion items for adding a Zoning District entitled Golf Course.
P&Z members were not aware of any pending discussions of adding the Zoning District Golf Course to the Zoning Ordinance or of rezoning the property as Golf Course. P&Z members I spoke with said that during their terms on the board, some dating back at least 10 years, discussion of adding Golf Course as a Zoning District never came up.
Golf Course is a Land Use already defined in the Zoning Ordinance and is allowed with a Conditional Use Permit in all Single Family Residential Zoning Districts.
As the golf course was in existence and operation before incorporation or adoption of the Zoning Ordinance in 2003, it would be an existing use under the definitions in the Ordinance.
Ferguson’s announcement about the change in zoning for the golf course caught the Mill Creek owners off-guard, to say the least. Gravette said on Aug. 10 that they had first learned of this at a pre-meeting with Ferguson just hours before the town hall meeting.
Billy Helm said that this action showed bad faith on the part of the Village to pursue the unnecessary zoning change during the discussions to purchase the golf course.
Helm also said that access to Sherrill Park would now be limited to the members of Mill Creek Country Club. Posted signs went up on Aug. 10 to that effect.
The Mill Creek ownership will discuss the future of the course at a 6 p.m. Aug. 14 meeting at the Pro Shop.