Eagan approves housing development on Parkview golf course

  • Article by: SUSAN FEYDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 17, 2013 - 10:28 AM

After a marathon meeting, the city approved the sale the city’s last 18-hole course to a housing developer. The club’s owners say it’s unprofitable.

 

A plan to remake Parkview Golf Club in Eagan into a large housing development has won approval from the City Council, a vote that ends a year-long battle by neighbors and golfers to save the community’s last 18-hole course.

The 4-1 vote was the final hurdle for Eden Prairie developer Hunter Emerson, which said recently it hopes to begin this summer on its project to build 170 single-family homes on the 80-acre course.

The council chambers were packed Tuesday evening with residents there to make their final arguments against the project, and the council meeting didn’t wrap up until after 1 a.m. Wednesday.

In the end, Mayor Mike Maguire and council members Cyndee Fields, Gary Hansen and Meg Tilley said they were concerned that a no vote might prompt a lawsuit from Parkview’s owners, ensnarling the city in long legal fight like the one it had about 10 years ago when a housing developer pitched a project for a different city golf course, Carriage Hills. “We cannot simply make these decisions based on what we want. We have to look to protect our taxpayers,” Maguire said.

Council member Paul Bakken, the sole dissenting vote, disagreed. “I’m aware of the risks. I’m willing to take them,” he said.

Opposition to the project has been so fierce that last summer City Council members received a death threat as they began considering the plan.

Area residents have protested that the new homes would ruin the open green space they have enjoyed, increase traffic and hurt their property values.

Golfers, who have seen the demise of courses in Eagan, Burnsville and Rosemount in recent years, have pleaded with the city to save Parkview, known for its long playing season and youth golf programs.

Parkview’s owners, who bought the course in 2001, have defended the sale, citing a steady drop in the number of rounds played. They have said the course is unprofitable and that housing is the most viable use for the property near the intersection of Cliff and Pilot Knob Roads.

“We’ve stuck with it for 13 years and made every reasonable effort,” said Robert Zakheim, one of the owners. “Sadly, Parkview is not a sustainable business.”

The City Council said last year it wasn’t interested in purchasing and operating the course.

Last week, a longtime resident who lives near the course made an 11th-hour bid to buy it and keep it going. The offer by Jeff Varela was promptly rejected by Hunter Emerson’s attorney, who said it was unreasonably low.

Varela said his $1.5 million offer is generous based on Parkview’s annual revenue of $830,000 reported at a City Council meeting last year.

Varela says the developer’s bid may be higher — that figure hasn’t been disclosed — but that’s because it would be based on land zoned for housing. “If that land doesn’t get rezoned, my offer is credible and probably even on the high side,” Varela said.

But Maguire said he had doubts that Varela’s bid was credible, not only because it was low but because it had emerged at the last minute. “Why not come forward earlier? Why wait?” Maguire said.

Varela has lived in Eagan for 45 years, 25 in a house so close to Parkview he can see it from the his deck.

Mark Skweres, another housing opponent, is even closer. His house is in a neighborhood bordering Parkview. “I’m one of those people who gets golf balls in my back yard,” he said.

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