A healthy dialogue ensued during the well-attended inaugural meeting of the Golden Hills Land Development Committee on July 10 at the community services district office.
The committee, formed by the district's board of directors, hashed out some of the responsibilities and the initial goals regarding three properties initially obtained: The old Golden Hills country club and golf course, property on Moon Drive and land on Golden Star Boulevard.
In addition to the five members initially appointed at the June 19 meeting, two more community members were introduced, bringing the committee to a complete seven people.
Committee members included CSD board president Ed Kennedy, district board member Bud Sargent, and Golden Hills residents Mary Beth Garrison, Tim Traynham, Don Maben, Samara Hart and Glenn Baumann.
The committee's purpose is to advise the board of directors on solutions for the three properties.
Three subcommittees were formed: a community outreach group to handle marketing and communication, a land development committee with a priority on the old country club and a finance committee. All three subcommittees are chaired by committee members, with community involvement.
Topping the interest was the review and discussion of the properties acquired by the district.
Dozens of ideas for the old country club on Woodford Tehachapi Boulevard have already been generated by community members, which was purchased along with Tom Sawyer Lake on May 23.
Those ideas ranged from a golf course or golf driving range to parks or a type of open space for bicycle use. Other suggestions had included funding solutions to revamp the run-down area and remove the dilapidated and condemned country club building.
Safety immediately came to mind from Maben, a former Kern County supervisor.
"That's probably the biggest issue from my personal stand point," Maben said. He inquired if the district has approached the Kern County Fire Department about cleaning up or taking out dead wood to decrease a potential fire hazard.
Kennedy said it would be one of things the committee will be discussing. He added the district has already mowed down some grass and has sheep chomping on grass in order to get a better sense of the country club land's condition.
When Traynham, who is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Tehachapi Unified School District, asked if the district anticipates the district making any money with any of the three properties in order to maintain it, it opened a discussion about the proper steps.
"The potential is there that there can be some income from the property along with whatever development is being done, but until w come with any ideas of what we want to do, that is a little premature," Kennedy said.
Baumann said more information is needed before any decision or suggestions are made on what any of the properties are used for, or before any discussion of funding becomes apparent. The information needed included priority of the three properties, the zoning for all three, acreage, size and shapes.
"Before we can even start to describe use, we need to know what is applicable for each property," Baumann said.
Both he and Garrison recommended a site walk of the three properties. Baumann recommended utilizing Kern County resources to determine what easements or encroachments crossed the path.
When it came down to naming the three properties, Garrison recommended holding off until a decision could be made as to all three uses.
Kennedy accepted the idea to refer to the properties by their street names: the Woodford property for the old country club, the Moon Drive property and the Golden Star property.
Resident Steve Townsend, during public comment, noted that safety, the status of the old country club building and clean up should all remain top priorities. As for funding, developing a plan relied on property use.
"You need a very realistic economic analysis: what does it cost to develop, to operate, what is a realistic source of revenue and is it a net positive or net negative," Townsend said. "You can do a lot of things that people are very passionate about and still create a huge cash drain that will bring the entire organization down."
Marilyn White, another resident and also daughter of former country club owner Leroy White, said the committee and the district as a whole is "between a rock and a hard spot" because of the properties.
"You bought property with our money and I think there will be everyone's opinion on what should be done with that," White said. She recommended placing in safety checkpoints in order to make sure that the eventual use represents the majority of Golden Hills residents and not just what is popular with a small group.
White also suggested the district rezone the commercial areas of the properties acquired.
"That gives the public a little bit of safety of not putting in a mini-mart or gas station," White said. "I think it would be a gesture of good will and more importantly good faith."
Bill Fisher, general manager for Golden Hills CSD, said that the idea behind that was to reduce the water demand.
Baumann, a committee member, suggested as well a full disclosure and breakdown of how the three properties were acquired.
"I think it would be great for all of us on this committee and the community to know it was acquired," Baumann said. "That is public information and I think some of that information hasn't gotten out in a clear enough way."
The CSD board did not have any public discussion related to the acquisition of the property, funding, or possible future use prior to announcing that it had purchased the property. All discussion related to the purchase was in closed sessions of the board.