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Sewer district opens negotiations to buy Holmes Harbor Golf Course

The Holmes Harbor Sewer District has submitted an offer to purchase Holmes Harbor Golf Course in Freeland, which closed two months ago for financial reasons.

The district’s action, which came sooner then expected, will contribute to the delay of a planned reopening next week of the 18-hole, par-64 executive course. Supporters still hope to reopen the course after Memorial Day, if not sooner.

“I’m very confident the golf course will reopen,” Stan Walker, president of the sewer district board of commissioners, said Thursday.

Sewer district commissioners already had ordered an updated appraisal of the property, and at their meeting Wednesday approved a letter of intent to purchase the course, Walker said.

“The offer is en route,” Walker said.

He declined to reveal details, saying only that while the owner has been supportive, negotiations are expected and the final price “is up to the market.”

Walker said the course would be purchased with district reserves, and would have no effect on sewer rates.

Meanwhile, Freeland Realtor Todd Bitts, interim chairman of the newly formed Holmes Harbor Recreation Association, said there may be a two-week delay in reopening the course until the sewer district’s letter of intent is accepted.

Obtaining an operation agreement with the owner is also taking longer than expected, Bitts said.

“Everything’s in place and we’re getting ready to go, but we can’t go anywhere until an agreement is in place,” Bitts said Thursday. The group had hoped to reopen the course on Monday.

“This was our ultimate goal,” Bitts said of the sewer district’s effort to buy the golf course. “We decided to move a little quicker.”

The 54-acre, par-64 course, owned by Holmes Harbor Community Partners, an independent component of the Schuster Group development company, has been for sale for more than a year. According to the Island County Assessor’s Office, the course and nearby parcels have an assessed value of more than $2.6 million.

The sewer district intends to buy only the parcels that make up the golf course, which are vital to the distribution of water from its nearby treatment plant along Honeymoon Bay Road. It won’t purchase the clubhouse nor any of the adjacent parcels, Walker said.

The public golf course closed March 14. The sewer district assumed the estimated $8,000-per-month cost to maintain the greens and fairways for 60 days so that treated water could continue to be disbursed efficiently through the course’s 400 sprinklers.

The sewer district holds an easement on the golf course proper. Proponents of the plan to reopen it hope to reduce playing rates to increase public use of the facility and create enough revenue to cover maintenance and operation.

The recreation association was hastily formed this past month to reopen and manage the course under an agreement with the owners, pending a sale. The agreement would permit continued use of the pro-shop portion of the clubhouse, the restrooms and essential operating and maintenance equipment.

The goal is a situation similar to Greenbank Farm, which is owned by the Port of Coupeville and run by a nonprofit, independent management group. The sewer district would own the golf course; the recreation association would run it.

Bitts said the association has applied to become a nonprofit organization, which would make community contributions tax-deductible. The association is managed by a five-member board.

Nearly 200 people attended a community meeting in late April to hear about the plan to reopen the course. Bitts said reaction was positive, and that contributions continue to flow in.

“There was a tremendous response,” he said. “I think we’ll be fine.”

The golf course was designed by Sikma Enterprises, Inc. in 1994. Developer Mark Schuster bought the course from former Seattle Supersonics basketball star Jack Sikma in 2003.

Owners blamed last month’s closure on the poor economy, a soft market for recreation services generally and the inability of the company to restructure its debt.

“We’re all poised,” Bitts said of the effort to reopen the golf course. “Everybody’s in place.”

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