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Southern Utah News Front Page: December 2, 2021
Frequently Asked Questions about the proposed golf course
A rendering of the proposed David McLay Kidd designed golf course by the Kane County Water Conservancy District (KCWCD), which if approved, would be located at the Jackson Flat Reservoir recreation area. Rendering provided by the KCWCD.
Questions asked by Neal Brown; answers provided by Mike Noel, KCWCD Director
What made the Kane County Water Conservancy District (KCWCD) want to get involved with building a golf course?
When the water district purchased the Jackson Ranch, the land came with a significant amount of water rights. The district has also purchased water rights that were not being used or were used on property that was sold for commercial or residential development.
When the Coral Cliffs Golf Course was sold to developers and then closed down, the water district started looking for a beneficial use of our Jackson Flat Reservoir water rights in the Kanab Irrigation Company. A potential new golf course was one area where the board felt we could use the rights to benefit more people with a public use of the water.
The original thought was that the new course be constructed around Jackson Flat reservoir. The design, however, was not something that would draw tourists and dedicated golfers to the course and would probably be financially difficult to justify. With an introduction to world-renowned course designer, David McLay Kidd, the current preliminary design took shape and is exciting many at the possibilities for growth in the area.
The KCWCD says local taxes will not be affected by the proposed golf course. How so?
The dedicated taxes that will be used for financing the approved $10 million CIB Loan for course construction are Transient Room Taxes (TRT). These TRT revenues come from tourists, paid through all the hotels and vacation rentals in the county on a per room basis. Utah Statute dictates the use of these room taxes.
The majority of the TRT taxes go to fund tourism promotion, giving us marketing gems like “Abrakanabra” and “Magically Unspoiled.” TRT distributions are also used for roads, search and rescue, garbage disposal, law enforcement and other impacts to the county. The county does an amazing job dividing these funds where needed, but cannot use any larger percentage of the TRT funds than they currently use for these purposes.
The final possible use of the TRT funds is for recreation capital expenditures that will benefit both tourism and local economies. For this purpose, the taxes can be used for recreational opportunities for county residents and the tourists that visit our area.
The collected TRT taxes have increased significantly with the construction of more hotels, increase in vacation rentals and the growth in nightly rates. Kane County is on track to collect an additional $1 million in tax revenues this year alone. That would be a total of $4.5 million or more collected each year with a continual increase as tourism increases.
Some in the community want a golf course, but do not think the water district is the right organization to start one. Is a water district legally able to develop recreation for its residents?
Kane County Water Conservancy District is legally able to develop recreational uses of its properties and its water rights (i.e., Jackson Flat Reservoir recreation area). However, the KCWCD will neither be managing nor operating the golf course. The county and KCWCD will co-own the golf course and will take a lead role in selecting a managing golf company to operate the course.
An independent advisory board will be created to provide input to stakeholders on rates, management decisions that affect local residents and overall management issues by the management company. Because of the involvement of our designer, several nationally-recognized management companies have expressed interest in managing the course. They all have excellent track records of managing municipal and county courses both in Utah and other western states.
To those thinking this project needs to be accomplished by the private sector; as a conservative and patriot, I tend to side with you on these things. When you pursue a project of this size and nature, you want someone to take on the risk. Why would we not want that for this course? Well, we cannot tell a private course we want our high school golf teams to be able to practice there. We cannot tell a private course we need a reasonable local rate. As a community, we will be able to control the direction this course takes and will not be beholden to one powerful company’s decisions. Rightfully, we understand wealthy groups can, at times, hold too much power. This keeps the power in the community’s hands.
For those who don’t have a firm understanding of water rights, can you provide an explanation of how water rights work in the state of Utah? Will the water rights owned by the KCWCD used to water the golf course affect Kane County residents?
Over the past 27 years, the district has been able to obtain water rights through several different ways, from purchases to private gifts. KCWCD (the taxpayers of Kane County) owns more water rights than any private or public entity in the county. It owns in excess of 35,000-acre feet of water rights (one acre foot of water equals about 326,000 gallons). There will be zero culinary water rights used to water the golf course.
The water used to irrigate the course is irrigation water held in the Kanab Irrigation Company, which is a privately owned Mutual Water Company organized under the laws of Utah. The elected board of directors of the Kanab Irrigation Company have unanimously approved the proposed use of at least 319-acre feet of the near 600 acre feet of water currently owned by the KCWCD for use on the proposed David McLay Kidd golf course. That is almost twice as many shares as we need to irrigate the entire course.
There are rumors that the owners of a large 400-unit housing development being planned bid on the same SITLA land the golf course is intended to be built on. If SITLA decides to sell it to this developer, along with the other large developments in Kanab being planned, how will our water resources be affected compared to a golf course?
There are three bid offers currently on the 101 acres of State Trust Lands. It is my understanding that besides the KCWCD application for the golf course, the other two applicants are for housing developments. Local residents need to consider the possibility of a new housing development being up by the reservoir. If you are worried about water and drought, those houses use much more water than any golf course ever could, and culinary water no less. If you worry about too much quick growth in town, if SITLA chooses a competing application, that’s exactly what you’ll get. The city would be the provider of water to those potential homes, so it would be up to the new mayor and the new city council to decide.
Many are worried about the ongoing drought and if there is a water shortage one year or multiple years, will the amount of water needed to water the golf course be reduced?
The drought is a concern for all of us. The KCWCD owns almost twice the amount of water needed to irrigate the course. As stated, no culinary water will be used for the course, and the water used by the irrigation company is all taken below the Kanab City well points of diversion and will not be affected by the irrigation water used by the Kanab Irrigation Company.
However, if the drought continues and the State declares a State of Emergency, all outdoor culinary water could be curtailed for indoor use. Thankfully, this year, with the help of local farmers and God, our reservoir will be filled to capacity before the irrigation season begins.
If the golf course fails to generate enough revenue as projected in the pro-forma financial model, will the local taxpayers be affected in any way?
There is no legal way property taxes would be impacted by the failure of the golf course. The KCWCD has not raised property taxes in the past 26 years. The mil levy is half what it was 26 years ago. The revenues from water sales continue to increase with minimal increases in water rates to account for labor costs and increases in pumping costs and infrastructure improvements. We at the district hold ourselves to a strict standard when it comes to taxpayer dollars and feel we are as conservative in our approach as any government entity.
Along those lines, people have voiced they would prefer different projects, such as a recreation center, workout gym or any number of things. Everyone always has a preferred way to spend TRT tax money. Can you explain a little how funding works between city, county and the water district?
All of those projects can be accomplished with the prudent use of the TRT monies, especially with them increasing every year. The golf course will augment the TRT funds and add value to the Kane County Convention Center, as most events prefer locations in our state that have access to a golf course. The David McLay Kidd course, like his courses in Bandon Dunes, Gamble Sands, Huntsman Springs and Entrada, will bring golfers from all around the west. This is evidenced by our financial analysis, additional research by the county commissioners, and the many golf professionals waiting for the opportunity to contribute to this great project.
If approved, when would the golf course break ground to get started?
Early spring of 2022, and it would be ready for play in the fall of 2023.