Opinion

EDITORIAL | Golf course lawsuit is unfortunate, unneeded

Last week was a bad one for the community surrounding Holmes Harbor Golf Course.

The writing has been on the wall for months, and on Thursday conflict over the clubhouse and pro shop came to a head with sewer district commissioners deciding to sue property owners and landlords Kevin Hanchett and Mike Hooper over a parking dispute. That it has come to this is unfortunate, as much now hangs in the balance. If the golf course were to close, as some claim, homeowners will pay the ultimate price through lower home values and higher sewer rates. That they should suffer for those who can’t settle their differences amicably is a shame.

Any pending court battle would focus on an easement for parking, but the legal argument is a dress for what appears to be a squabble turned personal. Saturday’s story detailing the escalating controversy was a soap opera of he saids/she saids, accusations and character jabs — not a tale of a disagreement needing resolution by a judge.

First and foremost, Hanchett and Hooper should put aside past resentment concerning tenant problems, private clashes with sewer district commissioners or both, and reconsider leasing the now vacant pro shop for golf course activities. The clubhouse was clearly designed and made for one purpose — to be the centerpiece and start of the golf course. The restaurant space was meant to bolster the facility, not the other way around. Hanchett and Hooper are the rightful owners, yes, and it’s their right to do with the building what they please, but hamstringing an integral piece of operations over a personal beef is unnecessary and unfair to residents.

If there is more to it than that, and this really is about money and making the most from an investment, then they should be clear about their intentions publicly, for the surrounding community has a vested interest in what happens at the golf course.

For the sewer district’s part, commissioners are in a tricky spot. The fairways are an integral part of its wastewater treatment process, making their future very much the district’s business. It’s why the board bought the 18-hole course last year, but ever since commissioners have been desperately avoiding the sand trap of getting too involved in the management of a for-profit business. Authorizing a lawsuit over an operational matter, a service contracted out to avoid the very reasons mentioned above, is the not the way to keep your hands clean nor is it the best way to cement future good relations with Hanchett and Hooper.

Like it or not, the district is in business with them and it’s incumbent upon the board to do whatever it can to foster a positive partnership.

Both parties should take a breath, consider what’s at stake and then meet and hammer out their differences. This is a fight that can and should be settled over a round of golf — figuratively — and not in a courtroom.

 

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