Germantown aldermen weigh in on country club as city considers purchase

By Published: April 28, 2019 1:32 PM CT

The increasing likelihood of Germantown buying the former Germantown Country Club property prompts general support from aldermen, though some raise concerns over how the process is being handled.

Aldermen could soon face the choice of whether to buy the property after the city's Financial Advisory Commission recommended last week that the city move ahead with a bid. Mayor Mike Palazzolo and City Administrator Patrick Lawton are expected to discuss a price soon and place an offer, though they will discuss with aldermen first and final approval would be up to aldermen if the city's bid is accepted.

"City administration has been instructed to meet with each alderman individually to review the process,” Palazzolo said Thursday in a press release. “It is imperative to get input from each of the City’s elected officials in advance of the offer submission."

If purchased, the acquisition would become part of the city's upcoming budget for 2020. 

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Among the aldermen who would have the final say, several mentioned the potential that the site offers to the city.

“Wow, what a potential for making something great," Alderman Forrest Owens said. "If it’s available, I think we should make a run at it.

"But," Owens added, "the question is for how much." 

A subcommittee of the Financial Advisory Commission recommended the city bid $6.8 million, which is the appraised value of the land. 

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Cushman & Wakefield, the broker for the property, will accept bids through June 4. The firm is marketing the property nationally and hopes to complete a sale by mid-June.

The city is in the process of putting together its 2020 budget, and aldermen will receive a proposal that does not include the country club purchase. If the city places a bid and is successful, the purchase price would be added and the budget adjusted before final approval. The budget must be approved by the start of the fiscal year July 1. 

Lawton said the budget could be modified a number of ways to accommodate the purchase, but he said the city planned to stick to its five-year tax plan implemented two years ago. He said the adjustment could be made by delaying some capital projects or another “revenue enhancement.”

The city has to complete the capital projects that are funded by state and federal grants or the money would be given to another city. The Financial Advisory Commission will be asked to make a budget modification recommendation to the board.

Alderwoman Mary Anne Gibson acknowledged the possible acquisition of the 180-acre property is an "incredible opportunity" and said the land was a "rich part of our city's history."

She said the city's parks master plan identifies parkland acquisition as an important objective, and this is unique way to follow that objective.

"It gives us opportunity to rethink what some of that looks like," she said.

Gibson said there are endless opportunities for the property, and she knows many wonder what will happen to the site if acquired by the city. She said no opportunities will be available, though, if the city doesn't own the land. 

"While I think it’s important to dream, I think it’s important to be thoughtful and deliberate about how we move forward in budget," she added.

Aldermen Rocky Janda, who serves as the alderman liaison to the Financial Advisory Commission, has expressed his support to commissioners in recent meetings.

“This opportunity may not come to us again, and the city could benefit from it,” he said. “There’s been a request for more (athletic) fields, we could get that and more.”

Janda said in conversations with residents, he has only heard two people say they were against the purchase.

“I don’t think anybody wants taxes raised, although there could be a fee,” Janda said in talking about the proposed parks master plan fee.

The Financial Advisory Commission discussed a fee for the implementation of the parks master plan, which would be revised if the country club is purchased for parkland. The fee could be added to the wheel tax – vehicle registration fee – or  $11.50 per month could be added to water bills. The fees would generate $2 million for parks.

Alderman Scott Sanders said he is still unsure if the purchase is the right move.

“I haven’t been presented all the facts,” Sanders said. “I don’t know what we’d use it for, the cost and the effect on the budget.”

Sanders acknowledged that the 180-acre purchase is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“There are positives and negatives from the information I’ve received so far, but I’m not gonna decide on what I want myself,” he said. “I’m gonna decide on what’s best for the people of Germantown."

He said he has talked to numerous residents, and some are for the purchase while others are against it. He said his biggest concerns were the “use, funding and future effects.”

“You gotta weigh everything out,” Sanders said.

He said it would be "advantageous" for the city to have a work session so aldermen could gather and discuss the purchase as citizens watch. 

Alderman Dean Massey said he and his family like the idea of large green space in the middle of the city, but he would rather have the aldermen openly discuss the potential purchase during a publicized meeting.

"The people's elected officials have a duty to publicly deliberate as a board about whether or not the expenditure is a prudent use of money."

Massey said he is unsure of the use of the property, and he wants the mayor and city staff to go on record with a proposed plan prior to bidding.

He said the impact stretches beyond the nearby neighbors and affects all citizens.

“The mayor has already floated the idea of increasing fees in order to purchase the property," he said. "All residents could be impacted by this decision and deserve to hear how each elected official influenced the city's decision to acquire and use the country club property.”


Germantown Germantown Country Club Scott Sanders Dean Massey Forrest Owens Rocky Janda Mary Anne Gibson
Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a May 2018 graduate of the University of Memphis.  She has worked for several local publications and has covered Germantown since May 2018.

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