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Cedar Hills golf courses prove too costly for young Utah city

Cedar Hills » City has already spent nearly $10 million but continues to accrue debt.



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Late to the game » Cedar Hills didn’t start its golf course until the early 2000s, nearly a decade after an explosion of course construction throughout the state already had leveled off and demand began to wane.

Initially, a private developer planned to build and pay for the golf course, but those plans fell through. Mayor Brad Sears, a manager with a real estate development company, decided to take over the venture. Sears said in 2003 that not only would the course make money, but its tax revenues would help subsidize other city services.

At a glance

Find out how much your city subsidizes it’s golf course:

http://auditor.utah.gov/lgReports.html

- In the local government reports box click on municipality -> financial reports

Money spent on the golf course:

$6.4 for initial golf course general obligation bond.

$2.7 million in impact fees for clubhouse/community recreation center

$700,000 to reconfigure golf course for St. Andrews Estates.

Total Spent:

$9.8 million so far.

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After four years of increasing debt and no option for calling a mulligan, the city scrambled and invested an additional $700,000 to restructure the golf course to create 22 lots for homes. Five years later, the city has yet to sell a single lot.

But instead of attempting to sell the course, the city kept investing.

The city has paid a total of $9.8 million in taxpayer funds to continue to improve the course — from a new clubhouse replete with a PR firm to promote its lunch counter, pro shop and use for wedding receptions and as a community recreation center.

Earlier this month, new Finance Director Charl Louw urged the city to clean up its bookkeeping, which did not clearly show how much the city had to spend to cover its debt on the golf fund.

"It’s just not a really good way to manage any fund," Louw said at a recent public hearing. "You need to have a realistic approach."

Councilman Scott Jackman said it will be nice to put the hot issue of the golf course behind.

"We definitely made a mistake," he said, "and we will definitely be better off moving forward."

cimaron@sltrib.comTwitter: @CimCity


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