DUNEDIN — City commissioners unanimously approved a new leasing agreement on Thursday that they say will encourage a "new attitude of openness" at the struggling Dunedin Country Club, ending two years of negotiations with a round of applause from the standing-room-only crowd at City Hall.
What began with the club's request for a cheaper lease and then spiraled through months of anger and frustration ended with a cheery "lovefest," said Commissioner David Carson. Club treasurer Jane Baird called the new agreement "a thousand times better" than the lease the club had abided by for decades, pointing to a 106-4 vote of support within its membership.
The city-club negotiations "brought out the best in us," said Mayor Dave Eggers. "All of it really brought us together."
Among the 45-page agreement's changes, to begin Dec. 1:
• The club's board of directors shall continue operating the golf course for 20 years, with city-club discussions at five-year intervals, as long as the city believes the club has not "defaulted" on the agreement.
• Club revenue will pay for property improvements and the salary of a general manager overseeing daily operations. A fifth of annual golf revenue over $1.8 million and a tenth of non-golf revenue over $900,000 would be paid to the city, though, as City Manager Rob DiSpirito said, there is "no guarantee this threshold will be reached." (In 2008, the club earned $2.5 million total.)
• The club, accused by some of rudeness toward nonmembers, will make "all reasonable efforts" to market its golf course and restaurant to the public.
• A city employee will have a vote with the club's board of directors.
• The name will change to the Dunedin Golf Club.
The club, whose membership has dwindled to less than 200, pledged $6.4 million in course improvements over the next 20 years.
A second vote Thursday unanimously approved the $250,000 sale of the club's 3-acre "Grove Tract" to the city for future use as a stormwater basin. Commissioners called the deal a win-win situation: The club can continue to use the tract's two chipping greens and spend more money on course improvements, and the city can now apply for a grant that would pay about $1 million for lining, pipes and labor necessary to drain water from the flood-prone Dunedin Isles subdivision.
Drew Harwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4170.