Voters to decide the future use of Normandy Oaks Golf Course

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published October 29, 2014

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ROYAL OAK — On Nov. 4, residents will vote for or against the Normandy Oaks Park Ordinance that would allow city officials to sell up to one-fifth of the public golf course and convert the remaining acreage to a city park.

A “yes” vote would amend the current Normandy Oaks Golf Course Ordinance of the Royal Oak City Code to allow city officials to sell up to 10 acres of the 50-acre property and convert the remaining 40 acres to parkland. According to the ballot proposal, the proceeds from the 10 acres sold would be dedicated to improvements to the 40-acre park site, the existing Royal Oak Golf Course, and other city parks.

Normandy Oaks Golf Course, 4234 Delemere Blvd., is one of two nine-hole, city-owned courses in Royal Oak. Royal Oak Golf Course, 3417 Don Soper Drive, would stay open to the public.

“We need to ask ourselves, ‘Are we best serving the entire community by dedicating this land to golfing?’” said Mayor Jim Ellison.

Ellison said he feels the property would be better as a passive park.

“The reality is we have in this community better than 100 acres dedicated to golf,” he said.

Royal Oak Community Engagement Specialist Judy Davids said the number of rounds of golf played at both city courses has declined. She said the total rounds of golf played at both city-owned courses combined is less than the demand the city used to have at the Royal Oak Golf Course alone.

City officials said the Normandy course is scheduled to close regardless of the election results due to inactivity.

Ellison declined to comment on the current value of the 10 acres of land proposed for sale, but it has been estimated in the past at about $4 million-$6.4 million. There is interest in the property for a development of about 34 single-family homes fronting Dakota and a portion of Woodland and Delemere.

The remaining 40 acres of parkland would be transformed into a passive-use park with plans for two full-size soccer fields, walking and biking trails, nature trails, cross-country skiing, a picnic area, and a sprinkler pad.

The amenities considered for the passive park came from a city of Royal Oak 2012 public opinion survey and citizen feedback during a July 9 town hall meeting when the Normandy Oaks Task Force, which Ellison chaired, presented a conceptual plan for a new 40-acre destination property.

All park plans are conceptual.

“If the voters say yes, we’ll start looking at hard plans,” Ellison said.

Ellison said the full-size soccer fields are a big draw for the Royal Oak Community, which boasts more than 2,000 kids enrolled in both soccer seasons. Ellison said there really isn’t another good place in the city to place a full-sized field.

The mayor added he wouldn’t mind adding a sledding hill and possible skating rink in the winter.

“The question in front of the voters is, ‘Can we modify the ordinance to sell 10 acres so that we can develop the other 40 to develop a park?’” Ellison said.

Voter approval is needed because the recreational property is protected by a 2010 ordinance requiring the vote of the public to sell the city-owned golf course, the driving range or the parking lot in front of the driving range.

Ellison said if this proposal passes, the 40 acres of remaining land set to be a passive park would still be protected from sale and must continue to be used as a recreational facility.

City officials said if the proposal does not pass, officials may come back to voters with a millage or proposal to lease the property to the county.

Ellison said if the county were to develop the park, he fears it would be designed to meet the needs of county residents and that may or may not serve the needs of those living in Royal Oak.

Elks Park, which is adjacent to the Normandy Oaks Golf Course, will remain as parkland regardless of the election outcome.

City officials began talking about the future of Normandy Oaks in February after the management company for both courses, Royal Oak LLC, asked the city to close Normandy so it could focus on the upkeep of Royal Oak Golf Course, the more popular of the two.

The city in March created the Normandy Oaks Task Force with the goal of coming up with a plan for the course’s future.

In 2005, a residential developer offered the City $17 million for Normandy Oaks. The City did not move forward with the deal after the community’s negative response.

City officials said this deal is different, as the sale proceeds would only be used for creating park spaces and would not go into Royal Oak’s general budget.

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