West Ada

Meridian golf course irrigation system is failing. How to fix it? Squeeze in more homes

The operators of Lakeview Golf Club in Meridian are looking for a way to finance a new irrigation system, which they say could cost upward of $2.5 million.
The operators of Lakeview Golf Club in Meridian are looking for a way to finance a new irrigation system, which they say could cost upward of $2.5 million. Provided by Lakeview Golf Club

When a Professional Golfers’ Association inspector visited Lakeview Golf Club in west Meridian a few years ago, he told the owners that its irrigation system was in the worst shape he had seen in his entire career.

Since businessman Erik Oaas began leasing Lakeview, 4200 W. Talamore Blvd., from Meridian in 2005, Oaas said his company has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the now-40-year-old system operational. But now he is asking the city for help in replacing the irrigation system entirely, at a cost of $2.5 million.

To fund the project, Oaas is proposing an elaborate private-public partnership with Meridian that could result in new residential development around the course and new amenities for golfers.

But with stray golf balls already a common feature in neighbors’ backyards, some are wondering how the course can fit more housing units around an already cramped course.

The Friant-Kern Canal in the San Joaquin Valley is sinking as the valley floor collapses because of subsidence, the result of excessive groundwater pumping. The canal has lost half of its capacity, and will cost $350 million to fix.

In a City Council meeting on Feb. 12, Oaas proposed that Meridian create a Community Infrastructure District, which can take out bonds to finance public infrastructure — in this case, the irrigation system and updates to the greens.

Oaas also would build new high-end senior townhouses on 5 to 10 acres of what is now city land, as well as a new clubhouse, a pro shop, a restaurant and bar, a special-events center and a fitness center. He proposed using land currently used for parking, an irrigation canal and a maintenance building for the new amenities. The areas could cut slightly into some of the space between the putting green at hole No. 4 and the tees at No. 5.

Erik Oaas Photo.jpg
Erik Oaas

To pay back the bond, the infrastructure district would levy an assessment on the new homes built around the course, Oaas said.

Idaho state law prevents Meridian from granting public land to a private company, so Oaas has proposed a land swap: Oaas would buy a parcel the city wants and give it to Meridian in return for some of the golf course land it owns that he needs to build the townhouses.

Meridian has owned the course since 1978, City Attorney Bill Nary said. In 2005, the city signed a 30-year lease with Oaas and his business partner, who paid a below-market-rate rent of $6,000 per year in return for agreeing to finance all maintenance and operations. The lease is set to expire in 2035, at which point the Meridian City Council can decide whether to renew it.

City Council members advised Oaas to draft plans for the townhouses and start hosting neighborhood meetings on the proposed plan.

Lakeview Golf Club owner Erik Oaas said that the irrigation pipes underneath the course are cracking and that the entire system needs replacement. Provided by Caroline Merritt

“For me to be comfortable, you’d have to have support from the neighbors who never expected to see multifamily there,” City Councilman Ty Palmer said.

Two neighbors interviewed by the Statesman offered contrasting views of the proposal.

Regina Manley, who has lived in a house near the course for 12 years, said that her family, like many of her neighbors’, chose the neighborhood for its proximity to the course. She has no objection to the townhouses and said the irrigation repairs “need to happen.”

But Michelle McCabe, who lives with her mother, Alice, in a house that backs up to the course, said she doesn’t want any townhouses near her. She also questions whether the improvements are needed as much as Oaas says. “They’ve kept it up fairly well,” she said.

The proposal requires the City Council to approve a community infrastructure district. Ada County created one to fund roads and infrastructure for Avimor, a subdivision in the Foothills north of Eagle.

Caroline Merritt, spokeswoman for Lakeview, said that the operators see a future for the course, even as hundreds of golf courses have closed around the country.

“Erik wants to move Lakeview to the next level,” Merritt said.

Lakeview will host a community meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the clubhouse for neighbors to hear more about the proposal.

Homeowner Pierce Roan worries that a new owner might reduce Plantation Country Club in Garden City to nine holes, or worse, completely remove the golf course and develop the property.

Kate reports on West Ada and Canyon County for the Idaho Statesman. She previously worked for the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Providence Business News. She has been published in The Atlantic and BuzzFeed News. Kate graduated from Brown University with a degree in urban studies.

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