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Decker Golf gets first positive sign from committee

Tuesday, May 12, 2015 by Jo Clifton

The City Council Committee on Economic Development gave supporters of a proposal for a PGA-style golf course at Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park their first victory Monday. The four-member committee voted unanimously to approve a framework for additional benefits for East Austin in a contract with Decker Lake Golf LLC.

Council Member Ellen Troxclair, who chairs the committee, made the proposal to dedicate additional money from the developers and a $5 fee from the sale of each ticket to a golf event at the course to an economic development strike fund dedicated to East Austin.

Troxclair said that according to her figures, the city could bring in an additional $1 million over 10 years by adding 1 percent to the amount the developer will pay the city each year. She said the city could also bring in at least $2.5 million more over 10 years through a fee on golf events, meaning an extra $3.5 million over 10 years for economic development projects in East Austin.

Although the committee members did not specifically commit to support the proposal when it finally comes to the full Council, Warren Hays, one of the project partners, said he was pleased by the outcome.

“With as many meetings as we’ve had with the city, this was actually the first step forward where we’ve gotten some positive feedback from the Council,” Hays said. “We had probably eight or nine appearances before the Council, and our community keeps coming down and asking for help.

“And so we’re going to take our victories in baby steps if we have to. We see this as a victory,” he concluded.

Decker Lake Golf LLC is seeking a 50-year license agreement in order to develop two golf courses, a clubhouse, meeting space, a driving range and related amenities on 735 acres of undeveloped parkland. In addition to the initial agreement, if Council finally approves the proposal, there would be four 10-year extension options for a total of 90 years.

Council Members Ora Houston, Greg Casar and Leslie Pool voted for the proposal. Although Pool has been a strong opponent of the project, her tone was completely different Monday. She seconded Houston’s motion to forward the proposal to Council and offered a friendly amendment.

Houston praised Troxclair’s proposal, saying, “Economic development for people who are impoverished and have no hope is something that we haven’t paid much attention to, so by being creative in your thinking and coming up with an economic development strike fund using the $5 surcharge on ticket fees — that is genius, and I really appreciate you doing that.

“And so the economic piece of this is that it is one piece of a larger conversation,” Houston continued. “And so we cannot continue to delay that conversation, nor can we continue to delay action.”

Pool said she thought 1 percent was too low but that Troxclair’s proposal was a good starting point for negotiations with the developers if Council approves the plan.

The committee made its decision after listening to members of the community, both pro and con on the matter. Charles Urdy, a former Council member, once again urged the city to keep the promise to build a golf course on the property. Roy Waley, representing the Austin Sierra Club, urged the committee to reject the golf course proposal and do something better for East Austin.

Image courtesy of the City of Austin

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