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Sarasota Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021 3 months ago

City sets special meeting on Bobby Jones

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Ahead of planned renovations, the city has narrowed its search for a contractor or private partner to two vendors, though negotiations are still ongoing.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

The city could be in a position to finalize plans for the future of Bobby Jones Golf Club next month, nearly three years after the City Commission first selected a design for renovating the municipal facility.

On Monday, the commission voted unanimously to hold a special meeting Nov. 29 to discuss the options still under consideration pertaining to the renovation project. The board will review a committee-endorsed proposal from a private company interested in taking over management of the property from the city, though the commission has not yet committed to finalizing such a partnership.

In March, the commission voted 3-2 to put out an invitation to negotiate targeted at private operators for the course. Although commissioners Jen Ahearn-Koch and Liz Alpert argued the city should continue to operate the course itself, a majority of the commission said it wanted to keep its options open. Commissioners who supported the invitation to negotiate suggested a private management company could reduce the city's expenditures on the course or even contribute to the cost of the renovations, previously estimated at $12 million.

The city is still in the process of negotiating with two finalists who responded to the invitation to negotiate: Paradigm Golf Management, based in San Clemente, California, and Antares Golf LLC, based in Reston, Virginia. City spokesperson Jason Bartolone said staff intended to have a proposed agreement finalized in time for the Nov. 29 meeting.

Regardless of the outcome of those negotiations, the city could still opt against a partnership with a private operator, instead selecting a contractor to carry out the commission’s selected design for renovating the 293-acre property. The city intends to downsize the golf course from 45 to 27 holes, using 130 acres of the site to create new public park facilities. The city’s favored plan would leave an 18-hole regulation course and a nine-hole short course.

At the Nov. 29 meeting, the city will also discuss financing of the project and the prospect of creating a conservation easement for the Bobby Jones property in partnership with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast.

If approved, the conservation easement would commit the city to maintain the site as public open space in perpetuity, foreclosing the possibility of developing the land as anything other than golf, recreation or natural lands.

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