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Glen Annie Golf Club says it will close

By   /   Monday, June 22nd, 2009  /   Comments Off on Glen Annie Golf Club says it will close

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The Glen Annie Golf Club said it plans to close July 6 after the Goleta City Council rejected a bid to build housing on the property that was designed to save the ailing course, which has lost as much as $1 million a year.

“We have no other options, and sadly, we are forced to close our doors on July 6,” the club announced in a June 22 newspaper advertisement. “We’re not sure what will happen to Glen Annie, but we know the closure directly affects the 75 people who work here, as well as the dozens of events planned in coming weeks.”

On June 16, the Goleta City Council voted 3-2 to reject Glen Annie’s request to study a potential annexation and rezoning to build up to 195 homes on the course. Glen Annie General Manager Rich Nahas said the club’s financial losses have become too heavy to keep the golf course, restaurant and event operations going.

“The golf course has suffered substantial financial losses from year one of our operation, to the tune of close to $1 million a year,” Nahas said. “This plan would have enabled us to keep Glen Annie going. All that we asked was for the City Council to study this plan.”

Glen Annie singled out the council’s vote as the driver for its decision to close.

“We are extremely disappointed that the Goleta City Council brushed aside what has been our long-standing community commitment, refusing to even green light a study of our draft plans to improve the offerings at Glen Annie, expand local jobs and provide long-lasting benefits to the entire city,’’ said Mike Dingman, vice president of Glen Annie Golf Club.

Ed Easton, a City Council member who voted against the proposal, said he was “quite surprised” at the club’s decision to close.

“No hint was passed on to the council by the Glen Annie people that that was going to happen, or would have to happen, if we turned them down,” Easton told the Business Times. “I didn’t feel I had enough information to make a decision of that magnitude, particularly having run against making land conversions,” Easton said, a reference to his 2008 campaign promises to preserve agricultural land in the Goleta Valley.

But Nahas said he was “shocked” to hear City Council members say they didn’t have enough information and that the club made its dire financial straits “abundantly clear.”

“I’m beside myself hearing that somebody on the City Council would have said that,” Nahas said, responding to Easton’s comments. “You can’t operate a business with $1 million a year going out of your pocket. I stood up there personally [at the June 16 City Council meeting] and asked them to consider, if nothing else, the well-being of the 75 employees we have that are entrenched in the Goleta community.”

Easton couldn’t say how knowing that a “no” vote meant Glen Annie’s closure would have affected his decision. But he said that the options presented for the club over the years – converting agricultural land to residential use or asking the budget-strapped city or county to take over the course – didn’t seem to be the best decision for the city.

“I don’t know what my decision would have been because I don’t know what kind of information I would have had,” Easton said. “The idea that the city is going to run a golf course using the receipts from a restaurant without any idea of what it’s going to cost to maintain that golf course – it’s just fuzzy, fuzzy, fuzzy.”

Council Member Michael Bennett voted to let the study go forward and said he’s kept an “open mind” about working with Glen Annie’s owners.

“I’m disappointed,” Bennett told the Business Times. “I’m sorry that, at least at this point, it appears we’ve been unable to save the course. I told people when I was running for office that I would try to do that.”

Bennett also expressed concerns that the city’s actions could lead to a loss of jobs.

“It gives me a great deal of anguish … to see that we’re going to be laying off 75 people,” Bennett said. “That’s 75 families. That concerns me.”

But Council Member Margaret Connell, who voted against Glen Annie’s request, pointed out that the property is within the county, not the city.

“In a way, the city was being asked to bail out the owner for some unfortunate business decisions made years ago,” Connell said. “Essentially, the owner of the golf course is targeting the City Council with the onus of the golf course shutting down, but I don’t think they’ve explored all the options they have. They’re talking about 195 homes. I think that would more than cover their debt.”

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