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In landmark "lovefest," Dunedin approves new agreement with country club

The Dunedin Country Club, whose membership has dwindled to less than 200, pledged $6.4 million in course improvements over the next 20 years. As part of its new agreement with the city, the name of the club will be changed to the Dunedin Golf Club.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2007)

The Dunedin Country Club, whose membership has dwindled to less than 200, pledged $6.4 million in course improvements over the next 20 years. As part of its new agreement with the city, the name of the club will be changed to the Dunedin Golf Club.

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 dharwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

In landmark "lovefest," Dunedin approves new agreement with country club 11/20/09 [Last modified: Friday, November 20, 2009 8:00pm]
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