Golf course's prospective new owners seek tax break

GIBSON CITY — City council members want to gather more information before deciding whether to approve a conservation easement for Railside Golf Club.

That decision came after a 30-minute Economic Development Committee meeting preceding the council’s regular meeting Monday night to introduce the idea.

Prospective new owners of the golf course requested the designation, which requires the easement to be conveyed to a government entity such as the city. The potential owners were identified only as Railside Golf Course LLC, an Alabama limited liability corporation.

In his review of the 20-page legal document, City Attorney Marc Miller said that the federal and state designation “freezes the use of the property to benefit nature and the great outdoors.”

Miller said the prospective owners have indicated the conservation designation allows federal and state tax savings that they need to make the golf course operation viable.

Mayor Dan Dickey favors the proposal as an economic development tool.

“This golf course may go away,” he noted. “They’re not making money right now.”

Dickey declined to name the prospective owners at the meeting but said the group consists of an Alabama contingent whom he has met and some local individuals.
According to Miller, the city’s only role would be to monitor the property to ensure it remains in its current state as a golf course — or as farmland — with no buildings or other development that would endanger the wildlife conservation designation.

Miller said the city would have to file an annual statement on the property’s condition, for which they would receive a fee. If the owners were to violate the easement’s conditions, he said the city would have no liability other than to report it.

Chairman Barb Yergler set a second committee meeting on the subject for 7 p.m. Monday, March 4. Members then expect to vote on the issue at their next regular council meeting March 11.

At the upcoming committee meeting, members expect to address three questions: whether to agree to be a party to the conservation easement, whether to broach possible annexation of the golf course (the buildings and parking lot are already in city limits), and whether to abate the city’s share of property taxes if the approximately 125 acres were to be annexed.

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