By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — Dearborn Heights residents won’t be seeing a ballot proposal regarding Warren Valley Golf Course on ballots anytime soon, after the City Council rejected a resolution to amend the city charter Aug. 9.
The charter amendment would have added a new section to prohibit the city from selling or leasing for a term in excess of 20 years the city-owned operations of the golf course.
An exception was written in the amendment that the selling or leasing couldn’t happen unless voters approved it during a regular or special election.
The council voted 4-2 against the resolution, with Councilmen Tom Wencel and Ray Muscat voting in favor. Councilman Hassan Ahmad was absent.
Before the vote, Mayor Bill Bazzi said he received several calls from residents who said that if the city approved the change, it would need to be done on every city property.
Council Chair Dave Abdallah said he was personally against the amendment because the residents put people in elected office to make decision on their behalf.
“If we’re going to take everything back to the residents to vote on, we would do something for this golf course, the Eton Center, the Berywn Center, the library, city hall, etc.,” he said. “When (the residents) need their input to the elected officials as far as the voting is concerned, obviously they have access to their elected officials.”
The lease agreement between Issa Brothers, LLC, Revive Golf Management, LLC, and the city is for 10 years with an annual cost of $60,000 in rent which will be paid monthly in $5,000 payments. Two five-year renewals were included in the terms.
As of the Aug. 9 meeting, the agreement had not been signed. Abdallah also said that Issa Brothers and Revive Golf Management — which had their lease agreement approved by the council Aug. 4 — have some “great, detailed plans” for the golf course.
Since then, Bazzi said Issa Brothers have had people in the banquet hall, including a chef who is trying to bring a 5-star restaurant to the facility.
City Engineer Ali Dib said visits to the golf course are happening so the city can get estimates for needed work, before the agreement is signed.
He was there looking at the bathrooms, pumps, panel and cart path.
Contractors, who are licensed specialists in the different areas relating to those fields were sought out. Dib said the cart path is completed and there is still plumbing and electrical work to be done before testing irrigation.
Abdallah said Revive Golf Management sent an email detailing its next steps in phases.
The initial takeover included to engage a Brown Golf Management agronomy team; complete the hiring of the local superintendent to report to the Brown Golf director of agronomy; source out the equipment; and charging the irrigation system.
There also was sodding the west greens, working on trees, hiring a tree service, and applying chemicals and fertilizers.
When speaking on the topic of restrictions, Abdallah asked why the council would include restrictions when there are no plans for selling it.
“My personal vision for it right now, we’re going to have golf there, we’re going to possibly have pools there, restaurant, cigar bar, banquet center, bar, and more,” Abdallah said. “To me this is nothing but trying to stop future (development). And we’re not talking about houses, we’re talking about construction and different uses the city feels that are important to the residents whether they are today or whether they are 10 years from now.”
Councilman Tom Wencel said the golf course is a major investment and piece of property that the city owns, and it can always make changes.
“What’s everyone afraid of?” he asked. “This isn’t going to cost us anything. All it’s going to do is make sure it doesn’t get sold unless, the voters — the residents, the taxpayers of Dearborn Heights — say it’s OK, not just seven people that are going to be completely different five years or 10 years from now. We’re going to make a decision for eternity. Let the residents vote and have a say.”
Corporation Counsel Gary Mitoke said the city can sell the golf course, but Issa Brothers will have first right of refusal. If that were to ever happen, the city council would have to approve the sale.
“This is not a deed restriction or easement, but it doesn’t say anything in terms of building or not building” he said.”The city could end up building different things on the property if it choose to do so, or worked out something with the Issa Brothers.
Wencel asked if the proposal amendment is blocking any type of development on the golf course to which Mitoke said it doesn’t.
To watch the full council meeting, go to the city’s YouTube page.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])