Commission gives go-ahead to golf-course lease

Assembly will hold a public hearing on the Totem Creek lease Jan. 10

Posted: Wednesday, December 01, 2004

After 10 years of planning, Totem Creek Inc. is one shot away from building a standard 18-hole golf course.

At its Tuesday meeting, the Juneau Planning Commission suggested the Juneau Assembly sign a lease with Totem Creek to construct a 274-acre golf course on the west side of Douglas.

The commission added one amendment to the proposed lease, requesting a future road alignment not be located within the watershed protection area of Peterson Creek unless no practical and feasible alternative exists.

The Assembly is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the lease Jan. 10. If the Assembly approves it, the city manager will be authorized to sign the lease with Totem Creek.

The lease, which runs 35 years with an option to renew, will allow Totem Creek to purchase 300 acres of city-owned land to develop housing - an idea not welcomed by some residents.

"The city should open the land for a public lottery so a wider range of people can own the land," said Michael Sakarias, 57. "This is a sneak deal."

But Peter Metcalfe, president of Totem Creek, said it's important for Totem Creek to have an alternative funding source if the corporation fails to find enough investors to finance the project, which might cost $8 million to $10 million.

"People are ignoring the fact that before the land can be purchased, we have to develop the golf course," Metcalfe said. "The city is not giving away land. We have to purchase it at a fair market value."

Totem Creek has only five years to raise the money; otherwise, the lease will not go into effect.

Some residents questioned the nonprofit status of Totem Creek. Although Totem Creek is a nonprofit organized solely for the purpose of building a golf course, it is not a 501C nonprofit.

"The lack of an IRS designation is a critical one," said Karla Hart. "Can the city lease to a nonprofit if it is not?"

The answer is yes because Totem Creek is a nonprofit under state laws, said Deputy City Attorney Peggy Boggs.

The project officially started in 1996, when the Assembly authorized the city manager to negotiate a lease with Totem Creek. In 1998, the state issued a permit with 49 stipulations to minimize the project's environmental impacts. In 2003, the city issued a use permit with 47 conditions, which covered topics from erosion control to habitat management.

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