The debate on whether the City of Plymouth should purchase the former Hollydale Golf Course came to an end July 28 after the council voted against several options that could have potentially led to the purchase of the 158-acre site. Instead, the council took no action to purchase the property.
“It doesn’t mean down the road we might reconsider that, but at this point in time, the city is not interested in moving forward to purchase this property,” said Mayor Jeff Wosje.
The purchase of the property (depending on costs of purchase and upgrades) would have led to an increase in taxes, which was why the council considered a recommendation to allow voters to decide in the upcoming election.
According to one calculation from Ehlers, the city’s financial adviser, the first year would have resulted in an estimated 13.5% levy increase.
“We’ve never had a double-digit levy increase,” Wosje said.
He also noted that operating a golf course or potentially buying the property for green space has not been a part of the city’s capital improvement plan, which the city budgets for each year.
The council considered three options to purchase the property – two were through a possible voter-approved referendum and the third was negotiating with the developer without a referendum. Two motions failed 5-2 and the other 6-1.
“I’m sensing [a majority of] the council is not interested in buying the property,” Councilmember Jim Willis said, adding the community deserves a decision either way. Willis and fellow Councilmember Jim Davis both supported a ballot question that would authorize the city to spend up to $30 million to acquire and improve the land.
“Considering the circumstances of the economy and the uncertainty of the world right now, and everything that’s been laid out, I really have a hard time even going to referendum at this point,” said Councilmember Nick Roehl, adding “I think it would be complicated and wasting our time” for the city to prepare for a ballot question when the chances of it passing “are slim.”
Councilmember Ned Carroll pointed out that advocates don’t want the guiding and zoning to be changed from the current public/institutional land use to residential, which would be the next stage of the process once the developer submits a full application.
Paul Hillen, a leader of the Preserve Hollydale Committee, wrote in a statement in response to the outcome that he hopes the council sticks to the comprehensive plan and doesn’t approve a guiding and rezoning change. “Nothing has changed in a year since they approved the comprehensive plan other than two people, the seller and buyer, want it changed,” said Hillen, and pointed to campaign contributions the developers made to Wosje’s mayoral campaign.
“We also hope the fact that Mayor Wosje accepted campaign contributions ... from both developers Jake Walesch and Dave Gonyea ... does not influence his decision to change the comprehensive plan. That would really be unfortunate.”
In response, Wosje said he had more than 100 individuals make contributions to his mayoral campaign and these two contributions from the developers were made before there was any idea that Hollydale would be developed.
“Obviously, if I had known that, I would not have accepted them,” he said. “I can assure our residents that this will in no way influence my decision.”
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