OV Golf

A real estate appraisal commissioned by the Cañada Hills Community Association finds that a partial or full closure of the town-owned golf courses would result in a “significant loss” in home values near the site and an overall negative effect on the community.

The association hired the Tempe-based Brekan Nava Group as an independent appraiser to provide professional input on how a golf course closure would affect the surrounding homes. For months, residents have voiced concerns to the new town council about preserving their home values.

Cañada Hills is one of seven subdivisions woven throughout the courses.

“The board decided several months ago that we needed to educate ourselves on the impact closure, partial closure, or restructuring the golf course would have on our residents,” said Steve Jones, president of the association. “To that end we decided to hire an expert appraiser respected and highly experienced in this issue to cut through all the various opinions we have heard.”

Jones said the association also thought the appraisal would be useful for the town council to understand how important their final decision will be for the residents.

Oro Valley’s golf assets—which include two 18-hole courses near the town-owned community center and an additional nine holes in the Pusch Ridge area located three miles east—have been steeped in controversy since a previous council acquired the facilities in December 2014 for $1 million.

There were hundreds of homes developed that sit along the golf course boundaries. Some of those homeowners paid between $10,000 and $40,000 in premiums to have backyards with lush green fairways. The average home sale price in Cañada Hills was estimated at $335,484.

The appraisers predict a potential loss in home values of 4 to 18 percent if the golf course were to be completely closed. They conducted research Feb. 15 - 22 and April 17 through May 1. They inspected the golf courses, related facilities and surrounding developments on April 18.

Their report—which incorporates opinions from anonymous real estate developers, builders appraisers and brokers—did not attempt to address specific dollar amounts of home depreciation, but rather general fluctuations in prices based on research, case studies and interviews. However, it does state the monetary loss would be greater the closer the home is to the golf course.

It also touched on a big question in the ongoing discussion: If not golf, then what?

The new members of council have expressed a desire to see open space or a municipal park instead of a town-operated course. The appraisal states this wouldn’t be in their best financial interest:

“The parks would provide an amenity with maintained open space; however, maintenance cost, inclusive of water cost would be required, similar to that of a golf course. Although user fees are changed, the downside of a park use is that parks provide little in the way of a revenue stream. Further, there would be cost associated with a change in use.”

The town’s agreement with HSL Properties, whom they purchased the golf course from in 2014, requires them to operate just 18 out of the 45 holes of golf.

Mayor Joe Winfield told Tucson Local Media he received a copy of the appraisal (which was published on May 16) but has not read it yet. While he doesn’t discount the conclusions, he feels it isn’t a fair comparison to Oro Valley’s situation.

The appraisal only cites case studies on home values where nearby golf courses have been abandoned, as opposed to repurposed into other amenities.

“I have talked to a professor at the U of A and he said there’s not a lot of research on homes near golf courses that have been repurposed,” Winfield said.

Though he did not provide specifics, Winfield said studies have shown that greenways, parks and trails are amenities that add value to a community as well. He thinks the appraisal is something the council should take into consideration, but it would be helpful to look at other research as well.

While acknowledging the costs of altering or closing the golf courses, Winfield said it would depend on the type of repurposing that is done. He suggested options such as converting the land back to native vegetation, creating a hiking trail, preserving the grass, or a mixture of these.

“There’s a price tag associated with that, not only for repurposing it but also for operation and maintenance,” Winfield said. “All that has to be taken into consideration.”

He would like to see the expenses and revenues of keeping the golf courses and repurposing them projected out three to five years and have town staff conduct a comparison to decide which option is the most cost effective, and what benefits the community. 

In 2017, a feasibility study conducted by the National Golf Foundation, among others, outlined three different options for altering the town-owned golf courses. These consisted of retaining one or both 18-hole courses or converting to three nine hole courses, and either closing the nine holes at Pusch Ridge or converting it to a 12 hole course.

All of these suggestions would result in opening up between 20 and 80 acres of land. They also would cost $4 to $5 million, with another $3 million to address Pusch Ridge.

Ultimately, Jones said the appraisal shows how devastating a closure or partial closure would be to the town as a whole, and how valuable they are as an asset.

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