Pheasantback Golf and Country Club isn’t a moneymaker and would be more profitable as pasture land, its new owner told County of Stettler council when asking for a break on his taxes.
“As a golf course it has less value than if I put cattle out there,” said Gary Grant in a presentation to county council at its regular meeting last Wednesday.
“Maybe it should be pasture, but a lot of people say, ‘No, it’s a jewel and let’s bring it back. Let’s make sure it survives.’ ”
The course went into receivership in 2012. Grant, who bought the 137-acre, 18-hole course 10 kilometres north of Stettler for $500,000 in late July of this year, disagreed with the $1.5 million assessed value and $24,000 tax bill. He said that the assessment was based on a full year’s operation, but it was only open a short period last season.
Coun. Greggory Jackson, however, said he supported the assessment and added that all business owners take some risk, regardless of whether they have a bad year.
“They still have to pay their taxes, as well,” he said.
Grant re-opened the bankrupt Pheasantback course in mid-August this year with nine holes initially, and then all 18 holes.
Grant told council that he’s doing everything he can to save the golf course. Some of the insurance on the course has been cancelled and the utilities shut off, and Grant said he hasn’t drawn an income from the business.
“I haven’t taken a cent out of this golf course and don’t intend to.”
The golf course is more of a community venture, he said.
“If the golf course should close, I would say ‘fine.’ I don’t make my livelihood on the golf course. I don’t even golf. I felt I should try and save this golf course for the community.”
Coun. James Nibourg said a tax reduction might not be in the county’s best interest.
“If we went with the theory of non-profit, then we wouldn’t tax any farmer in the county,” he said. “(But) we want to help you as much as we can.”
Coun. Nibourg said there might be options for Grant through an economic development route.
Forgiving taxes to the golf course would also set a precedent, Coun. Nibourg added.
After the meeting, Grant said he would, “mull” all of the options and try to make sure the budget works so the course would survive.
Council didn’t take any action on Grant’s presentation. A merit hearing with the county’s assessment review board was held Oct. 18 after Grant filed a complaint asking the golf course be assessed at $200,000, instead of $1.5 million. He had argued that the taxes for the golf course in town, his competition, for 2013 are only $298.
In its defence, an assessor for the county said that Pheasantback was taxed in the middle of the road when compared to other courses, such as Kananaskis, Carstairs, Sundre, Crossfield, Bowden, Delburne and Acme. The highest assessment was $7.3 million and the lowest was $566,000.
The assessment review board, in its findings, determined there wasn’t enough evidence to alter the assessment.
Grant said the club hasn’t sold memberships yet for the 2014 golf season.
“If we can’t survive, what’s the point?”
SCORE Golf has recognized Pheasantback as an “excellent local course,” with a rating of 6.50, and it’s listed as one of the top 10 must-play courses in Alberta.