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Homeowners along closed golf course in Freeland worry about declining values
The neighbors are determined that play will resume at Holmes Harbor Golf Course at Freeland.
But in the meantime, some are worried their home values are dropping fast.
“If you buy property on a golf course, and the golf course goes away, you can no longer market it as golf-course property,” said Don LaMontagne, a longtime resident of the neighborhood.
“If you lose amenities in a neighborhood, you lose value,” he said Thursday. “If you move your family to a good school district, and the school closes and your kids are bused someplace else, you don’t have the same value.”
But LaMontagne and others are certain that the course will reopen at some point, once legal wrangling between the owners and their bank ends.
“We’re confident we’ll have our golf course back and operating,” he said. “Don’t count us out.”
LaMontagne said that of the 300 homes near the course, about 150 are adjacent to the fairways.
He said residents and golf enthusiasts continue to explore ways to raise money to buy the course.
“We have ideas, but no plan,” LaMontagne said. “We’re waiting to see the outcome of the litigation.”
The course closed in March after its owners, Holmes Harbor Community Partners, said they could no longer keep the 18-hole, par-64 executive facility open because of the poor economy.
The course was built by former Seattle Supersonics basketball star Jack Sikma in 2003.
Attempts to find a buyer for the property, valued at more than $2.6 million, also fell through.
In April, Holmes Harbor-area residents formed a nonprofit association in hopes the course could be reopened shortly after Memorial Day.
In mid-May, the Holmes Harbor Sewer District offered to buy the golf course, without the clubhouse, for $200,000.
The plan was for the sewer district to maintain the course, while the nonprofit Holmes Harbor Recreation Association operated it as a public facility on a break-even basis.
Holmes Harbor Com-munity Partners accepted the sewer district’s offer to buy the course, but it was rejected by Columbia Bank, holder of the note.
Since then, the property has been tied up in back-and-forth litigation.
The 54-acre course is vital to the sewer district, which holds an easement on the property. Water from the district’s treatment plant is distributed through the course’s 400 sprinklers.
Since the course closed, the sewer district has been cutting the grass to keep the sprinklers operating efficiently, but hasn’t been maintaining the greens in playing shape.
Stan Walker, president of the sewer district board of commissioners, said he expects no change in the situation until after the first of the year.
“There’s nothing new,” Walker said by phone Thursday morning from a golf course in Oregon. “Nothing’s going to change for the next few months at least.”
LeMontagne said he believes that the value of houses bordering the course is dropping rapidly. He said one nearby house along the course has sold twice since being built in 2006 — the first time for $279,000, the next time for $299,000.
The house currently is being listed at $249,000, he said.
“I don’t know any place in the county that has been devalued that much,” LaMontagne said.
Island County Assessor Dave Mattens said Thursday that there’s no way yet to pin down an actual decline in value of property adjacent to the golf course.
He said current assessments on the properties that were sent out in June were based on 2009 comparable sales. Figures for this year won’t be released until January, he said.
“If we don’t have any sales in the area, then we’re not going to have any data to lower values substantially,” Mattens said.
Todd Bitts, president of the Holmes Harbor Recreation Association and a local Realtor, also lives next to the golf course. He said it may be too soon to worry about home values dropping in the area.
“I don’t think there’s a definite amount of decline at this point,” Bitts said Thursday. “It really depends on the individual house, how it looks.”
Meanwhile, he said the nonprofit association remains intact and ready to move forward once the legal logjam surrounding the course clears.
But Bitts said that the decline in the number of people playing golf because of the economy is worrisome.
“It’s been a nightmare for the golf business,” he said. “Smaller courses like Holmes Harbor are always struggling. Now those people have even less money to spend.”
LaMontagne, meanwhile, tries to keep up his golf game, mostly in Oak Harbor.
“I’m not sure I can beat anyone anymore if I’m not able to practice,” he said. “But it’s a little inconvenient — it’s 35 miles up the road.”