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Parks Board Recommends Keeping Normandy Oaks Golf Club Open

In a two-hour emotionally charged meeting Thursday, the Parks, Recreation and Senior Advisory Board voted to recommend to the Royal Oak City Commission that Normandy Oaks Golf Club remain open for the 2014 season by a 4-0 vote. (Commissioner Mike Fournier, Alex Fike and Amanda Klein abstained from voting.)

The city commission will make the final decision on the fate of the municipal golf course when it meets next on Feb. 17.

More than two dozen people attended the meeting at the Mahany / Meininger Senior Community Center, which also included a discussion regarding selling less used parks. About half participated in public comment.

"We are losing our open space!" said Dave Sims, a 27-year resident. Sims pointed to pointed the wildlife he's witnessed inside the golf course including turtles and deer. "There are wetlands in there." 

Sims questioned if the land could even be developed without causing flooding headaches for nearby basements.

"Once green space is gone, it's gone forever," said Joan Koelsch, of Royal Oak. "You never get it back."

Marc Comptios, of Royal Oak, told board members one of the great things about Normandy Oaks is that it is actually affordable for seniors and young people.  

"It probably just needs better promotion. We've seen it closed a lot of days and couldn't figure out why," Comptios said.

The issue with Normandy Oaks, according to City Manager Don Johnson, is that the contractor is losing money. The current contract is basically a rental agreement in which $50,000 is paid to the city.

"They are not bringing in enough to cover their costs," Johnson said.

Johnson said the city is very pleased with Joe Spatafore's management with the golf courses. The city receives more compliments from golfers than complaints, he said.

"They're happy, but it's not working for the contractor because he's not making money," Johnson said.

"The big problem with the golf course is the water situation," said Chairperson Todd Meing. "We don't have a way of splitting off the sewers from the water and as a result when they need to water the golf courses it can get into hundreds of thousands of dollars because they are paying for sewers as well."

If the Royal Oak City Commission agrees with the Parks, Recreation and Senior Advisory Board  when it meets and keeps Normandy Oaks open, Spatafore would like to renegotiate his contract.

"We have double electric bills, double water bills, double staff bills," Spatafore said, adding that golfers historically prefer Royal Oak Golf Club by a ratio of two to one. "I don't know why, but people like to play Royal Oak more than they do Normandy Oaks," he said.

"The comment that I heard tonight that it seems like (Normandy Oaks) is not open, well we're open it's just that sometimes there are not people there and it looks like we're closed."

Commissioner Mike Fournier said one thing he is considering is whether or not one good nine hole course is better for residents than two mediocre courses. 

If Normandy Oaks were closed, it wouldn't mean the green space was going away, Fournier said.

"Could Normandy Oaks could be converted into soccer fields? Do we need to have a cross country ski trail? I understand the position on golf but there competing interests in the city for available park land."

Fournier, Fike and Klein abstained from voting to close Normandy until they had more information on the financials of keeping the course open versus closing it and repurposing the land into some other recreational use.

To sell the course, is a separate discussion and to do so would require the issue go before voters.

Correction: The vote was 4-0.
Mike Ripinski February 07, 2014 at 12:19 PM
CORRECTION - I want to make sure the record is accurate. The actual Vote was 4 to 0 with 3 abstains for the recommendation to not close Normandy for this season.. One board member left before the vote. This vote is a recommendation to the city commission and they can choose to act as they see fit.
Laura Harrison February 07, 2014 at 01:06 PM
Before the city closes Normandy Oaks or any parks there should be a clear plan as to what the vacated properties will be used for. Royal Oak doesn't need a repeat of 696 property.
Judy Davids (Editor) February 07, 2014 at 03:00 PM
Thanks Mike. I made the correction.
Mike Ripinski February 07, 2014 at 04:15 PM
Thanks Judy - I also pointed out at the meeting last night that the combined utility bills - gas - electric and water for both courses in 2013 was $32,000 not hundreds of thousands for water.
Ed Callahan February 07, 2014 at 09:01 PM
Closing and selling the course would just be a quick revenue gimmick for the city. And let us keep in mind that once green space is bulldozed under, it can never be replaced. If anything, turn it into a large park.
Joel Disberry February 07, 2014 at 09:54 PM
consider a groupon (online coupon for 50% off)??? we use them every week in and around royal oak, and if you ask people dining in royal oak, they know about these too. we just used one at the new place, 220 on 5th ave, for half off appetizers and drinks. we usually spend beyond the groupons too. try one, sell a thousand or two passes or packages half off, and get the word out. get with the times! ; ) or advertise a coupon on patch
Marc Comptois February 07, 2014 at 11:16 PM
The main point I tried to make at the meeting was that a few years ago the voters of Royal Oak voted to dedicate Normandy Oaks for recreational use and not to be sold by 90 percent of the voters. 90 percent! That should have put this idea to rest for good. But here we go again. We have already lost so much neighborhood green space due to tearing down half of our schools and loosing the surrounding athletic fields and play areas. Selling Normandy Oaks to private developers should not even be considered!
Judy Gates February 08, 2014 at 07:57 AM
I agree Marc! It should remain a green space and not be sold! I also feel that if there aren't enough residents using the course than that space needs to be converted to a space that many more residents will be able to use! Some type of recreational space for families is what I have in mind! Besides building homes that the families of 2014 want, we need space for current residents and new residents to enjoy in their own city not just a select few that golf (sorry golfers don't mean to offend anyone)!
Mike Ripinski February 08, 2014 at 11:42 PM
Normandy Oaks had almost 10,000 rounds of golf played last year. Name me one other city park or facility that had that many visitors last year. Outside of the ice arena or Memorial park with the art fair and ball fields , I can't think of any. Yeah... lets close it down because nobody uses it huh ????????
Bob February 10, 2014 at 08:59 AM
Judy, I like your points. You don't need to shout about it.
K. Scott February 10, 2014 at 05:27 PM
Who's shouting Bob? or is that in your head?
Bob February 11, 2014 at 08:49 AM
Who needs all caps, K, when every single sentence ends with an exclamation mark??!
K. Scott February 11, 2014 at 08:53 AM
Gotcha
Judy Gates February 11, 2014 at 12:01 PM
No shouting intended. If I was shouting it would have been in caps....sorry but there is no way to edit the post. That's just the way I post..

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