A proposal to build a new clubhouse at RedTail Golf Club led to a contentious and sometimes chaotic meeting Monday evening where residents questioned what the future of the village of Lakewood-owned golf course looks like and whether that would cover the cost of improvements.
The meeting Monday evening was intended as a community discussion, Village President David Stavropoulos said in a letter to residents, and a presentation by staff laid out a history of RedTail and possible steps and investments the village could make moving forward.
The proposal is still in its early stages. The Lakewood Village Board met several times this spring to discuss the proposal but has not decided on the finer details of what the new clubhouse would entail or how it would be funded.
Stavropoulos began Monday’s meeting by calling out residents for “their own self interpretation” of past meetings and at times traded barbs with several speakers.
“As has been my approach in nearly all things Lakewood, transparency is very important to me,” Stavropoulos said. “However a few residents have determined otherwise. We are here to discuss realistic relevant options with progress in mind, and not falsehoods that are intended to create scenarios of doom.”
Stavropoulos had also issued a statement last week ahead of the meeting, responding to a resident’s email that had been circulating that raised concerns about the village’s plans and RedTail’s future profitability.
Stavropoulos did not identify the resident, but Steve Willson said he had reached out to Village Board members on April 27 with his concerns, including possible increased traffic and noise from a larger venue. Willson said he was taken aback by the Stavropoulos’s “bizarre and insulting” response.
“Recent board members ran on respect and courtesy,” Willson said. “Apparently, this does not apply to residents of the village who disagree or ask questions.”
A new clubhouse would replace the current, outdated structure, which was originally built in 1991 as a temporary structure. In addition to concerns about the structure’s condition, it also limits the size and number of events RedTail can host, village officials have said.
Cosmetic repairs made in 2019, which covered about 40% of the structure, cost $125,000, Village Manager Jean Heckman said.
“The current asset is not salvageable,” Stavropoulos said.
Stavropoulos had cited a 45-day timeframe for issuing a request for proposals, which would seek out ideas from architecture firms, in April, but Monday evening, he said the process would be a slow one, so trustees could weigh the issues and “make an informed decision.”
Trustees Monday evening requested information on how much a completely new clubhouse would cost, whether repairs could be made to the existing clubhouse and if the village could get an idea how much the golf course would be worth if it was sold.
Two previous attempts within the past decade to sell RedTail were shot down by prior village boards, in 2013 and 2016, according to the staff presentation.
Answers to the trustees’ questions would be worked on for a future meeting, tentatively scheduled for July, about RedTail that will focus more on finances, Heckman told the Northwest Herald.
The Village Board in April looked at a number of options for funding the project, including a private/public partnership and alternative revenue bonds, a form of long-term debt where an identified revenue stream is meant to pay back the loans but is ultimately backed by property tax dollars.
Alternative revenue bonds, in particular, drew concerns from both residents and trustees, who questioned whether future revenue could ensure they wouldn’t end up covering the cost through their property taxes.
“Thirty years ago, I stood before your predecessors with one question: Is this ever going to cost me a dime?” said Lakewood resident Cal Skinner, a former state legislator who operates a local blog. “They lied.”
When reviewing the golf club’s financial history, Heckman said RedTail had shown a positive operating income 23 of the past 31 years, with an average annual revenue yield of $94,000.
Funding for improvements has already been set aside from higher golf rates set this year, and if the board pursued plans to finance new facilities, reserve funds would be set aside to cover down years, Heckman said.
More events would also bring in more income, Heckman has said.
The number of events planned at RedTail this year tops 100, including a USGA amateur tournament qualifier on Aug. 25, which RedTail manager Kenny Goodwin said was “a big deal” for RedTail and Lakewood.
“My staff makes a big difference,” said Goodwin, who has managed RedTail since 2021. “Sometimes people don’t even know they are in a trailer because of the service they’ve been given.”