At its most recent meeting on Monday, May 14th, the Jersey Village City Council voted unanimously to authorize the city manager to enter into a contract with PGAL, Inc. to design a new golf course clubhouse for the Jersey Meadow Golf Course. Since that meeting, a few questions have come up regarding the costs and benefits of a new clubhouse. This isn’t a new discussion – it is one that has been ongoing for years now. When the Jersey Village Comprehensive Plan was developed, there was strong citizen support for renovating and updating the golf course.
I voted, along with all of my colleagues on city council, to move forward with the rebuild of the golf course clubhouse because I believe it is an essential component to our plan to return the golf course to a profitable stance. Over the last several years, we have hired a very business and service minded golf pro in Matt Jones to lead our golf course staff, we have adopted a golf course marketing plan that has helped the golf course generate additional revenues, and our Parks and Recreation Director, Jason Alfaro, has continued to explore new ways to use the golf course clubhouse as a community amenity by hosting events such as local sporting event watch parties, monthly kids nights, and family movie night at the golf course.
Here are some of the more common questions I have seen posed about this project:
How much is the new golf course clubhouse going to cost?
City council has set an initial spend level for the golf course clubhouse rebuild at $1.25 million for an 8,000 sq. ft. facility. This, however, is not set in stone. Why? Well, we just hired the architect to design the clubhouse. We have given them an approximate budget to work with for construction, and they will come back with a design based on the input they receive and the proposed budget. Until they complete this work, it will be hard to say whether there will be a need to tweak the design or possibly increase the budget for the project. This, of course, is all going to be based on numerous factors including community input, the revenue generating potential of design features, the usefulness of design elements for general community use, and the possibility of future expansion of the clubhouse, if needed. The situation is very fluid and the picture will become more clear once a proposed design is presented.
Where will the money for the golf course clubhouse come from?
Initially, $750,000 will come from our hotel occupancy tax (HOT) fund, which contains revenues collected from people who stay in hotels in our city. A 7% tax is applied to all hotel stays in Jersey Village to generate revenue for this fund. HOT funds can only be used for purposes which contribute to bringing tourists and visitors to our city. The remaining $500,000 will come initially from our general fund, but may be reimbursed later as additional HOT funds are collected in future years. It’s quite possible that the clubhouse will ultimately be funded entirely by non-residents who have come and stayed in a hotel in our city.
Can the city legally use Hotel Occupancy Tax funds for this project?
Yes. I won’t get into the details of the legal advice we were given, as that communication is attorney-client privileged, but I have no reservations about the eligibility of this project to utilize HOT funds. Not only can the city use the funds on this project, there are very few other potential projects for which these funds can be used. If we didn’t build a golf course clubhouse, chances are these funds would sit unused for an indefinite period of time. It’s better to use them now in order to reduce and hopefully eliminate the taxpayer subsidization of the golf course.
Why is this project moving along faster than flood mitigation projects?
Implementing flood mitigation projects that are safe and effective is much more complicated than building a golf course clubhouse. Retaining and redirecting the flow of large volumes of water is a difficult task that requires a lot of work to do right. Also, because each such project must be approved by the Harris County Flood Control District based on very strict regulations, we must ensure that the engineering of these projects is done right the first time. A small delay now is worth it to avoid a far greater delay later on. To learn more about the status of the various ongoing flood mitigation projects, click here.
Waiting to build the golf course clubhouse in deference to flood mitigation would only delay the benefits of a new golf course clubhouse, including making the golf course profitable once again. Also, delaying the project would do nothing to make flood mitigation projects move along more quickly or make them more effective. The two projects have nothing to do with one another.
Why don’t we spend this money on flood mitigation instead?
Flood mitigation projects are not lacking for funds at this time. City council budgeted $2 million in the current fiscal year, and is scheduled to allocate another $2 million toward flood mitigation in the next fiscal year. Also, hotel occupancy tax (HOT) funds cannot be used on flood mitigation.
Why don’t we use the golf course property for something else, like a park or for flood mitigation?
I encourage you to read an article I wrote earlier this year, “Should We Keep the Jersey Meadow Golf Course?” I examine the most commonly suggested alternate uses for the golf course and explain some of the more misunderstood factors which have led the Jersey Village City Council to continue maintaining this property as a golf course.
The short answer is that this is the cheapest way for us to maintain 126 acres of green space, and citizens have made it known that they do not want to see that space developed. In most years that the city has owned the golf course, it has generated an operating profit. Only in recent years have the expenses outpaced the revenues.
What if I have more questions?
Contact me at my official city e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can call me on my cell phone at 713-515-2958. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about this project or any other issue affecting our city.