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The decision-making process for potential merger and the building of an annex are called into questioned

PMG PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Residents filed into Charbonneau Country Club last Tuesday to hear arguments for or against putting key decisions up for a vote by homeowners.

It's a pivotal time for the Charbonneau community.

Not only is the nonprofit Charbonneau Country Club — a homeowners association — discussing a merger with the for-profit Charbonneau Golf Club, community leaders are planning a new activity center at a nearby annex building the club purchased last year.

And while some who testified during a packed CCC board meeting Tuesday, Nov. 5, trust the CCC board of directors to make decisions related to these issues, others said they would like decisions to be put to a vote by homeowners.

"I'm interested in a vote on the annex and whatever acquisition might be planned for the golf course," said one Charbonneau resident at the meeting.

Charbonneau Golf Club President Joe Brouillette and CCC President Kathy Harp said one of the rationales behind the potential merger and the annex purchase is so the two entities can more closely collaborate and put on more large-scale events that bring in revenue to the community. The annex — which is located next door to the clubhouse and was purchased for $620,000 in 2018 — also could provide more space for activities.

At the meeting last week, Harp announced there will be a vote by residents on various options for the activity center proposed by a community task force. These options will have varying costs and designs.

However, board member Steve Switzer said in an interview that the board hadn't decided what exactly the vote will entail and if the vote would be binding or advisory. Currently, according to CCC bylaws, the board is tasked with making such decisions.

"We are in the process of putting together the next steps and that includes more input from the community. What that vote looks like, I can't speak to that because we're not there yet," Switzer said.

As for the potential merger, those details are still being resolved. And Switzer said he did not know yet how the board will proceed on that matter or whether a community vote will take place.

"They're (the golf club) still determining the value of the shares. Until that's accomplished I don't know what information we can give out," Switzer said.

Some Charbonneau residents are concerned about the potential for increases to their annual dues stemming from the rebuilding of the annex (which Harp has said will happen) and the potential for dues increases to subsidize the golf course, if needed. The recent budget called for an increase in dues from $65 to $77, according to CCC Manager Jim Meierotto.

"We need to know how this is going to hit our pocketbook. No one wants to have to move; no one wants to see our home values going down," said Charbonneau resident Robin Richardson.

Brouillette said the merger would provide the opportunity to subsidize the golf course through dues increases, but is emphatic that the golf course is on stable footing financially and that subsidization won't happen in the near term. However, the privately owned golf club does not have to release financial information, so the Spokesman was not able to document the solvency of the golf course.

As for a homeowner vote, not everyone was in favor of the idea.

"I support the board and their decisions and their right to make decisions. I appreciate that they are trying to upgrade the facilities here and preserve the golf course for us and future residents," a Charbonneau resident testified.

However, members of Spirit of Charbonneau, an ad-hoc group that recently formed, believe there's been a lack of transparency among the club, and they want a vote.

"It's not what they're doing. It's the fact that they haven't given all the information before they do it and there is no vote," Charbonneau resident Alice Harvey said.

One of their criticisms is related to a survey the club conducted earlier this year to gauge community opinion. For instance, it asked respondents to indicate their level of agreement with the statement: "I think that the value of my property is linked to Charbonneau having a golf course" rather than simply asking if they want the club to merge with the golf course. They also asked respondents about their vision for the annex without asking whether they wanted the building to be purchased in the first place and revealing how much the project will cost.

"You're never asking the people do you want it or not want it. They're saying 'We're going to have it. Give us your wish list,'" Harvey said.

Switzer, however, said concerns did not come up when the club was in the process of purchasing the building and that people should focus on what to do moving forward rather than on past decisions. The board also conducted public outreach before deciding that the annex building should be rebuilt rather than remodeled.

"The restaurant was vacated in 2017. It was clear something had to be done. The board at that time made those decisions. The board in the fall made the decision to tear down the building. The demolition of the building is moving forward. The next step is what to do next," Switzer said.


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