The City of Fort Smith sent a donation agreement to the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority Board of Trustees in hopes that the FCRA will put the item on its Thursday (Aug. 17) meeting agenda and they will agree to give the city Deer Trails Golf Course.
The Fort Smith Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution May 16 requesting FCRA donate the property that has operated as many years as Deer Trails Golf Course to the city of Fort Smith. Members of the FCRA board have said they are hesitant to do that because though the Fort Smith resolution states they intend to keep it a golf course, there is no guarantee that it can be kept a golf course.
In the city’s donation agreement sent to FCRA, the golf course, including 119 acres, two10-feet by 16-feet portable locker buildings, two recreation shelters, and five free-standing buildings along with related grounds and parking, would be conveyed to the Fort Smith for a minimum of 40 years.
“The purpose of the donation conveyance to Fort Smith is to secure the continuation of golf course operations for the benefit of the public including the residents of the cities of Barling, Greenwood, and Fort Smith and of Sebastian County for a minimum period of 40 years,” the agreement states.
Deer Trails has operated as a golf course for over 75 years.
FCRA first leased the golf course to the non-profit Deer Trails Country Club in 2014 for $1 a year for five years. Prior to that FCRA operated the golf course for two years. At the time, the FCRA said it was a necessity to lease the facility and get it off FCRA’s books. The lease agreement removed the monetary liability from FCRA while keeping the amenity on-site and available to residents.
According to Daniel Mann, FCRA director and CEO, Deer Trails is now in its second 5-year lease and FCRA and Deer Trails are negotiating for an additional year extension to that lease, which would extend the lease to March 31, 2025.
The 119-acre golf course, located on Custer Avenue with a boundary at Roberts Boulevard, is shown as a community attraction property for sale on the property for sale section of the FCRA website. Mann said May 11 the property is for sale but it is not being actively marketed.
The donation agreement says that during the initial five years of the donation period, Fort Smith agrees to lease the Deer Trails Golf Course Properties to Deer Trails Country Club for operation pursuant to a lease agreement, which provides for a possible five year extension of the term.
“In the event DTCC should fail or be determined unable to fully satisfy or complete its lease and operation obligations, or if the lease term of the lease with DTCC does not continue for a full 10 years, Fort Smith agrees to temporarily operate the Deer Trails Golf Course while advertising for proposals and selecting a non-profit entity to which to lease the Deer Trails Golf Course for operation for the benefit of the public on terms substantially similar to the proposed lease agreement,” it states.
For the remaining 30 years of the donation period, Fort Smith agrees that the Deer Trails Golf Course will be operated as a public golf course in a condition and repair equal to the condition and repair at the end of the initial 10-year period, the agreement states.
Fort Smith directors questioned City Administrator Carl Gefken Aug. 1 of the proposal, asking if it had been sent to FCRA and when he thought the city might get the golf-course.
“Let me tell you the reason I’m asking,” said City Director George Catsavis.”The people who own the land on the north side and the south side of Deer Trails are wanting to do housing developments. The hold up is the golf course. The bank says, ‘Hey, the city gets the golf course, we’re all in.’ Because their selling point is going to be ‘you can live here and walk across the street and play golf.’ That’s a selling point. So do you think by this meeting they will make a decision?,” Catsavis said, referring to the Aug. 17 FCRA board of trustees meeting.
Director Lavon Morton said it was important to get the donation on the agenda for the Aug. 17 meeting and for city board members to reach out to members of the FCRA board of trustees regarding the property. Geffken told board members he did not know how things would progress with the proposal. He said there would most likely be back and forth between the city and FCRA, but the important thing would be to agree on the basic principle and finalize the actual agreement later.
“It will be up to the FCRA board about what that time table will be. The city will accept it (the golf course) as quickly as possible,” Gefken said. “This will be squarely in the laps of the FCRA board of trustees.”
The agenda for the Thursday FCRA board meeting was not posted as of 4:55 p.m. Monday.