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Rohnert Park golf course operator's lease renewed on slim vote

Rohnert Park, after more than a year of negotiations, has signed off on a new lease with the Petaluma company that operates the city's golf courses.

The lease lowers the annual rent that CourseCo pays the city from $175,000 in 2011 to $81,000 a year. After maintenance costs that Course-Co is to cover, the city will get $50,000 a year. The lease also builds in a revenue-sharing formula.

City staff estimated that, with the share of gross revenues it is to get, plus money CourseCo is to kick in annually to a capital improvement fund, Rohnert Park would receive $87,000 in the 2012 fiscal year, rising to $173,500 in 2015.

City attorneys concluded that councilmen Joe Callinan and Amy Ahanotu could not vote on the issue because they live too close to the Foxtail course, but Callinan spoke against the lease as a private citizen.

On Saturday, he said that if the city was willing to ask the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office how much it would charge to run the city's public safety department, as it did in 2011, it should also ask for competitive proposals on the golf course contract.

"It's our biggest asset in Rohnert Park and shame on us. We put public safety out to bid. We put the electric sign out to bid. But not this," he said, referring to the Dorothy Spreckels Performing Arts Center advertising billboard.

CourseCo has operated the 36-hole Foxtail course since 2001. It pressed for the lease to be revised last year, saying it had lost $4 million in that time.

"It keeps us from getting totally ground up on the downside, which we have been for literally 10 years," said Tom Isaac, CourseCo's president, of the new lease. "And it gives the city more upside, presuming, as we do, that things will stabilize and grow when economic conditions are more favorable."

He said the company in has paid $157,607 it owed the city in back rent.

The City Council approved the 20-year lease on a 2-1 vote, with Councilwoman Gina Belforte opposed. She, too, said bids should be sought on the contract.


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