Posted 5/17/16 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
After nearly eight years of planning and design work, the expansion of Watford City’s Fox Hills Golf Course to an 18-hole facility is now officially dead in the water.
Like so many other projects that were on the drawing board in Watford City, the blame is low oil prices, which has brought about a slowdown in oilfield activity in the area.
The bad news for the golf course board came during a special meeting of the Watford City City Council on Tuesday, May 10, when they learned that the city has no extra money in its City Infrastructure Fund to help the golf course with its $6 million expansion project.
“The Building and the Ways, Means and Finance committees want to help the golf course,” stated Justin Voll, city councilman. “We agreed to use the proceeds from the sale of city-owned land next to the golf course for the project. But right now there is no interest from any of the developers to purchase the property.”
According to Aaron Gravos, city council member and golf course board member, the proceeds from the land sale were a critical part of their financing package for the nine-hole expansion.
“The sale of the city-owned land would have provided about 50 percent of the project cost,” stated Gravos.
And with no money for the project, Gravos fears that the proposed expansion of the golf course could be dead.
“The volunteers that have worked on this project are tired,” stated Gravos. “The project has been in limbo for eight years and I don’t see it going any further. I agree there is not funding now.”
Gravos did ask the council to consider making the expansion of the golf course a city priority. However, even that request wasn’t met with any support from council members.
“The chink in the plan is today’s market conditions,” stated Brent Sanford, Watford City mayor. “We’ve put a ton of time into the project and we have intent. But right now, there is no interest from anyone in purchasing the land.”
While the city considered the option of listing the city-owned land with a local realtor, according to Sanford, the city would need to maintain control over the land to ensure that the development met city requirements.
“It’s very concerning as to what could be developed on those two parcels of land if sold on the public market,” stated Sanford. “Not only from the standpoint of the city, but to the other developers and to the golf course.”
While considerable mass grading for the golf course expansion has already been done by developers, Curt Moen, city planner, noted that those areas will need to be seeded into grass to prevent erosion and blowing dirt.
With the lack of funding for the golf course expansion project to proceed, the golf course board will be meeting in the near future to discuss their options.
“The plans are in place,” stated Voll. “It’s a shovel-ready project. We just don’t have the money now.”