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Johnson City should seriously consider Unicoi's Buffalo Valley offer

Johnson City Press • Feb 13, 2018 at 12:57 PM

For the past decade, the Johnson City-owned Buffalo Valley Golf Course in Unicoi has been a drain on municipal taxpayers, losing a combined $1.71 million between 2012 and 2016.

City officials should have been eager to sell the unprofitable enterprise years ago, but it wasn’t until December that the Johnson City Commission finally voted to cease its Buffalo Valley Golf Course operations and sell the 121-acre property, which isn’t even located in the municipality.

The golf business today isn’t nearly what it once was, as consultant Jim Keegan told city officials “supply exceeds demand across the entire country.”

So, who would actually want to inherit, much less buy such a white elephant and keep it operating as a golf course?

How about the stakeholders living around or near the course, whose property values could suffer greatly if the golf course remains closed?

The Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen listened sympathetically to its constituents’ concerns during its Jan. 15 meeting, less than a month before the Feb. 7 deadline to bid on the golf course, and decided to do what it could to keep the golf course’s ownership local.

After forming a committee, who hurriedly met several times during the three-week span, the town of Unicoi settled on a $400,000 conditional offer, which includes a $200,000 down payment and $20,000 in yearly installments over the next decade.

City officials might scoff at the lowball offer, and while it’s likely they will be offered more by a nonlocal entity, the town of Unicoi’s bid needs to be taken seriously. It’s doubtful Johnson City can reasonably accept such a low price, but that should be a starting point.

As Press Staff Writer Sue Legg reported, the town’s committee even formulated a business plan that would allow the town to turn over the management of the course to the landowners. Those landowners must feel strongly about Buffalo Valley if they’re willing to take it upon themselves to manage a golf course that’s historically operated in the red.

John Bell, a resident living near Buffalo Valley’s 18th tee, believed he could gather 200 signatures on a letter of commitment to invest in the course, and even floated the idea of the town selling shares of the golf course.

If it is, in fact, impossible to accept, maybe the offer could at least open the door to negotiations between the two governments.

In the past few years, local governments and municipalities have touted the need for more regional cooperation, and this could be a prime opportunity.

 

 

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