Acrimony ends discussion of Forsyth golf course purchase, for now

The Forsyth County attorney's attempt to get direction from county commissioners Tuesday on how to proceed with the possible purchase of a golf course descended into bickering among the commissioners, with one insulting another during one irritable exchange.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard's request for direction died shortly after Commissioner Patrick Bell called Commissioner Jim Boff "an idiot."

Boff and Commissioner Jim Harrell are in favor of the purchase of Lanier Golf Club with green space or park money and have procured a proposal by a golf course management company about a public-private venture to run the course.

Bell and Commissioner Brian Tam are against the purchase, citing the $12-million price tag in a down real estate market and the lack of a public bid process for the public-private venture.

Chairman Charles Laughinghouse split the issue, saying he was for the purchase of the 170-plus acres as green space, but not a golf course.

Jarrard said a second golf management company has expressed an interest in the public-private partnership.

"The board as a body has not directed me to work out a deal," Jarrard said. "I roll all this out there simply to ask the board for directions."

The discussion has been ongoing for months. Residents appear split as widely as the commissioners, some enthusiastic about the purchase and others questioning the price or appropriateness of a county-owned golf course. Government-owned courses around the state are losing money and courses, including the nearby Country Club of the South, are in financial trouble.

Jarrard was outlining competing bids from the golf management companies when Bell immediately interjected, "Why have we not opened this up for bid?"

Affiniti Golf Partners, the company Harrell and Boff have talked with about the public-private deal, offered to give the county $3 million of the purchase price in return for a 99-year lease of the course. A second company, Sequoia Golf, had come up with a similar deal, but said their proposals have not received a fair hearing.

"Based upon our vast acquisition experience with municipalities, we are surprised that Lanier Golf Club could change hands without public due process. We have never seen it done any other way," Brent Reid, an executive vice president with Sequoia Golf, stated in a February 19 letter to Jarrard and Harrell.

Harrell said after the meeting he considered Sequoia's proposal but Affiniti's appeared to be the best deal for the county.

The board's discussion descended into acrimony as the commissioners discussed the price and other recent park purchases. Harrell said it would take three votes to give him the go-ahead and that appeared unlikely.