A Primer on the The Granville Golf Course Easement

As of this writing, development rights to the Granville Golf Course are: (1) owned solely by the six owners of the Granville Golf Course; (2) not capable of being definitively determined in the absence of a complex, unpredictable and potentially expensive legal process; (3) reasonably valued at approximately $4 million; and (4) available for purchase by Granville Township and the Village of Granville for roughly half that value. The elected representatives of both Township and Village residents are pursuing steps to seize that opportunity while it is available. By negotiating two separate easements and a right of first refusal, the Township Trustees and Village Council will effectively preserve the property for continued use as a golf course or as open space. In the Spring of 2012, concerns arising from several years of operational losses led the Granville Golf Course owners to consider their options regarding the property. During that time the Granville Township Trustees were advised that the owners would consider creating a conservation easement that would qualify for purchase with the Township’s statutory Open Space funds. Such an easement would preserve most of the golf course property as open space and eliminate any possibility of future development of that property. That led to a number of conversations between representatives of the property owners, the Township and the Village regarding what, if any, development rights currently exist on the golf course property. That question was exhaustively researched during the latter half of 2012. When the Hilengreen and Bryn Du subdivisions were developed in the 1980s, the area that includes those subdivisions and the Granville Golf Course was rezoned from Open Space District (OSD) to Planned Unit Development (PUD). As part of that rezoning, the Development Plan stipulated that the golf course land “shall be used as either a golf course…and/or kept in its natural state” for “so long as that zoning exists on said property and/or until said Plan is modified by the Village of Granville.” In other words, as long as the Granville Golf Course land is zoned PUD and the Development Plan remains unchanged, the land can be used only as a golf course or open space. The Development Plan is essentially a binding contractual agreement between the developers and the Village. Like any contract, it can be modified by agreement of the parties. Neither party has suggested that it be modified. Zoning ordinances, on the other hand, are created by law and are subject to constitutional scrutiny under Article I, Section 19 of the Ohio Constitution and the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. A property owner can apply for rezoning of property at any time. A future owner of the Granville Golf Course could apply to rezone the property to Suburban Residential District (SRD), for example, for the purpose of developing additional subdivisions with densities comparable to the adjacent Hilengreen and Bryn Du subdivisions. A decision by Council to deny such an application, if found to be arbitrary and unreasonable, could be declared unconstitutional and overturned in court. Even if such a decision passed constitutional muster, it

could be held to constitute a taking of the property so as to entitle the owner to compensation. The question is not whether additional development of the golf course property is possible—it is—but rather, how much additional development might be possible. And the only way to definitively answer that question would be through complex, unpredictable and potentially expensive litigation. The property owners communicated their preference to forego that process in favor of further exploration of a conservation easement. In June of 2013, the Township had an independent appraisal done, which concluded that the potential development rights on the golf course property have a reasonable value of Four Million Forty Thousand Dollars ($4,040,000.00). After receiving that appraisal, Township representatives negotiated the purchase of a conservation easement over the golf course property restricting the ability to place additional development on the property. The agreed-upon price of that easement, which would be purchased with eligible Township Open Space funds, is Two Million One Hundred SeventyTwo Thousand Six Hundred Dollars ($2,172,600.00), or 53.8% of the appraised value of the development rights. Certain parts of the golf course property (improved areas, such as the clubhouse) are not eligible for the use of Open Space funds. That fact created a need for the property owners and the Township to either exclude those areas from the proposed conservation easement or come up with alternate funding for those areas. That, in turn, created an opportunity for the Village to consider acquiring its own easement over those areas. The Village’s objectives in exploring that opportunity are: (1) to assist and support the Township’s efforts to preserve the property for continued use as a golf course or as open space; (2) to maintain the ability to upgrade and potentially expand future golf course operations; (3) to give the Village a right of first refusal as to any future sale of the golf course property to a third party; and (4) to preserve flexibility for the Village to potentially use part of the golf course property in the future for community uses such as a recreation center. The Village will likely consider purchasing an easement over up to fifteen (15) acres including the clubhouse, parking and driving range areas, at a purchase price of approximately $16,000 per acre. That purchase would reduce the cost to the Township, as the total purchase price for both easements would remain Two Million One Hundred Seventy-Two Thousand Six Hundred Dollars ($2,172,600.00). In summary, due to ongoing operational losses and other considerations, the current property owners were exploring their options and made it known that they would prefer a conservation easement to possible additional development of the property. They also expressed a willingness to accept significantly less than the appraised value to restrict additional development of the property. Elected representatives of both Granville Township and the Village of Granville deem preservation of the golf course property to be a worthwhile community interest, and are prudently moving forward to achieve that goal in the most costeffective manner possible.

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