Tensions are rising in the South Salem neighborhood as a vote approaches on whether residents should pay to help run a nearby private golf course.
More than 200 Creekside Estates residents attended a chaotic town hall meeting over the proposal Wednesday night. More than a dozen people withdrew before the meeting ended.
The Creekside Homeowners Association Board of Directors held the meeting to answer residents’ questions about the proposal but ended up referring many questions to the owners of Creekside Golf Club, who were not present.
If residents vote yes on the proposal, each of the neighborhood’s 588 landlords would pay $90 a month, or $1,080 annually, for five years to help support the golf club. Landlords are also asking residents to agree to a 1% transfer fee on home sales in the neighborhood.
Together, these moves are expected to raise an estimated $4.2 million over five years. The money will be split between increases for club staff and infrastructure improvements.
If the club becomes profitable, its owners will continue to operate it during the five-year agreement. If not, or if the homeowners don’t agree to the proposal, the owners say they will close the course.
Golf club members, hoping to prevent the shutdown, are asking for voluntary donations, and say they’ve already raised $1 million.
The club is struggling financially
Creekside Golf Club and Creekside Estates were created by the same developer, but have no legal or financial connection.
But many club members live in the neighborhood, and those with views of the golf course have an interest in preventing development. Some residents said they bought their homes thinking the golf course would always be there.
The course has struggled financially for at least a decade, and in 2016, golf club owners Larry Tokarsky and Terry Kelly submitted a pre-development plan with the City of Salem to convert the course into a planned 354-unit project.
That same year, owners asked neighbors to raise their association fees by $60 per month for limited club memberships, raising about $400,000 annually.
When that failed, club leaders asked the City of Salem to lower its price for water, shifting the cost to resident water customers. This proposal also failed.
This time, the club’s owners hired a marketing firm in Salem, a public affairs consultant, to create a website and mail flyers to residents.
The website says the proposal was a consensus plan of a group of board and club members calling themselves the Creek Conservation Committee.
But board member Audrey Konold stressed at the meeting that the owners rejected that committee’s proposals and instead made their own demands. She said the board was only presenting the owners’ request for consideration.
Separately, a group of homeowners and golf club members support the golf club owners proposal. They sent residents a letter urging a “yes” vote and indicated that golf club owners would not ask for more money when the plan expired.
Their message reads, “If the owners’ bid is not passed, the golf course and club will be closed.” “If we can postpone the decision to close the club, there are very serious efforts underway that will preserve the golf club and our community beyond five years.”
Another group of golf club members is distributing their own plan, to demand voluntary donations to the club. A member of that group said at the meeting that it had already raised $1 million.
Meanwhile, neighbors who oppose the club owner’s proposal go door to door using their own flyer.
“It’s a very poor, if not irresponsible, business decision for our HOA to support a failing private enterprise, especially when the HOA has no say in how the business is run,” says the one-page post.
“This is the case of David versus Goliath,” says the letter. “Resident individuals who oppose this tax deal with a deep-pocketed goliath who hired a fancy PR firm to sell a bad plan.”
The publication also questions why the vote took place less than a month after the proposal was first announced. Residents were first told that they would need to appear in person at the June 29 meeting, or send in a proxy, in order to vote. This was later changed to electronic or mail voting. Ballot papers must now be received by June 28.
“A lot of Creeksiders – away on vacation, at work, etc. – may be distracted from learning about the plan,” says the opponents’ bulletin. “If it had been a reasonable plan, the owners would not have been in such a hurry.”