‘Ironclad’ agreement returned to FCRA seeking golf course property conveyance

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,418 views 

Members of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA) Board of Trustees asked for better terms before donating Deer Trails Golf Course to the City of Fort Smith. They got what they asked for, but at least one city director is frustrated with FCRA leadership.

The Fort Smith Board of Directors agreed Tuesday (Aug. 22) during a special meeting for City Administrator Carl Geffken to return to the FCRA with updated terms for a possible donation of the golf course property.

During an Aug. 17 meeting, the FCRA Trustees rejected a donation conveyance agreement with the city that would keep a golf course at Chaffee Crossing for at least 40 years, saying they did not have enough assurance the property would be used as a golf course for a long enough period of time. Some Trustees asked for 50 years.

In the donation agreement sent to FCRA by the city of Fort Smith, 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.

“There seems to be some distrust. But one of (the trustees) said they could get behind it if it was definite it would be a golf course for 50 years. I don’t see much difference between 40 and 50, but I’m OK with changing it to 50,” said Director Lavon Morton.

FCRA Trustees in May said they were hesitant to donate the property because there is no guarantee from the city that it can be kept a golf course. The city then sent a donation conveyance agreement stating the city would keep the property as a golf course for the next 40 years. They would give Deer Trails Country Club, which has leased the golf course since 2014, a 10-year lease with a second 10-year option.

FCRA Trustees again rejected that agreement on Aug. 17.

The Fort Smith BOD agreed Tuesday to redraft the agreement to be “ironclad” that the golf course would be run as a golf course for at least the next 50 years as long as it remained financially viable as a golf course. Morton moved, and the board approved, that the agreement should have some type of clarification that no future city administration or board of directors could change the designation of the property as a golf course during the 50-year term.

Director George Catsavis said he was offended by public statements from some FCRA Trustees that Fort Smith couldn’t even take care of its own property and should not be given the golf course. Catsavis said he is frustrated by the unwillingness of the board to convey the property to Fort Smith, which has the funds to properly assure it can remain a golf course.

Further, Catsavis said he wanted a moratorium on any city water or sewer services to any newly purchased city property in Chaffee Crossing until the matter was settled. Catsavis also alleged FCRA CEO Daniel Mann has a financial reason to block the donation of the property to the city.

“It’s getting ridiculous. They are holding up development and costing the city and the area millions of dollars in property taxes all because one man wants a 2% commission on (golf course sale). The only one holding this up is Daniel Mann,” Catsavis said.

According to his contract, Mann receives a 2% commission on FCRA property sold. Concern about the Deer Trails Golf Course remaining as a golf course was first raised when the FCRA listed the property for sale. 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 city’s concern grew when FCRA and the Deer Trails board members were unable to come to terms on a long term lease. Deer Trails is now in its second 5-year lease. FCRA had been negotiating with Deer Trails to extend the lease by one year. An offer had been made by FCRA to extend that lease for five years. Deer Trails had countered asking for a 10 year lease with the option to renew for another 10 years. Negotiations have not been completed.

Also, Fort Smith contractor and developer Rod Blake told the Fort Smith Board on June 15 that they cannot develop property they have on two sides of the golf course as residential housing developments until something permanent is set for the golf course.

“Everybody seems in agreement that this property should stay a golf course. It is my understanding Deer Trails (Country Club) has come down from wanting a 99 year lease to a 10 year lease and for the property to be listed as not for sale. If (FCRA) would give the 10-year lease and take the property off the market, the issue would go away. In 10 years, the trust would be dissolved (because all the property would be sold,” Geffken said.

Catsavis said Tuesday night that the inability of FCRA to assure that the golf course would remain a golf course was not only keeping surrounding property from being developed for housing, it was also keeping Deer Trails from being able to sell golf memberships.

“I have a membership out there, but they are having some trouble. People aren’t wanting to buy memberships if they think the golf course is going to be sold,” Catsavis said.