(Feb. 8, 2018) While an agreement to lease the Winter Quarters golf course in Pocomoke seemed like a done deal only weeks ago, that deal apparently fell through when some city officials asked for more time to consider advertising for additional offers.
The Pocomoke City Council voted 3-1 last month to close the course, citing perpetual six-figure financial loses and declining membership. Councilwoman Diane Downing was the lone vote to keep the course open.
The nine-hole course, built in the 1940s, was deeded to the town in 1949.
During a council meeting on Monday, City Manager Bobby Cowger said a closed-door discussion was held two weeks ago with a group seeking to lease Winter Quarters.
While he and City Attorney Roscoe Leslie were initially instructed to draft the lease agreement, Cowger said “in the meantime, I was instructed by the council to hold up.”
“You guys felt that you’d go out to publicize to see if there’s any other interested parties or anything, so I got back with the parties that made the proposal of leasing to us. They didn’t feel that that was right, that we shouldn’t have changed midstream, so they pulled their offer off the table – they’re no longer interested,” Cowger said.
He said the council could still advertise to lease the course, if it acted soon.
“If you’re not putting chemicals on those greens by the end of March at the very latest … you will be losing those greens pretty quick,” he said.
Downing disagreed the council “changed midstream.” She said it was her understanding Leslie would look into the legality of leasing the golf course.
“I didn’t want the golf course closed in the first get-go, so let’s just straighten [that] out for the record,” she said. “For me, this is what I agreed to.”
Councilman George Tasker, however, said email exchanges between councilmembers included “a couple who wanted to advertise.”
That included Councilman Dale Trotter.
“I like the idea of advertising to see if there’s someone interested in running it or taking it over … rather than just giving it to a certain entity,” Trotter said. “We should at least offer it to the entire public, in case there’s 10 people that want to come into the golf course. I would like to see it advertised.”
Councilwoman Esther Troast asked if it would have been legal to lease the course without first seeking bids.
“I don’t think your charter requires you to put it out for bid, but I think it’s a good practice,” Leslie said.
As acting mayor, Troast said she did not have a vote, but was against turning the Winter Quarters log cabin into a restaurant, as was apparently proposed during the closed session.
“I don’t have a vote, but I do have an opinion and you all know that I’m more than willing to give it to you,” she said. “I was dead set against them turning that log cabin into a restaurant.”
Tasker countered that was not exactly what was proposed.
“You didn’t listen to what he said. ‘I’m going to fix the food in Princess Anne and bring it here and put it in chafing pans and sell it that way.’ I never heard him once say he was going to put a kitchen in,” Tasker said.
“Same difference, he’s going to be serving food out of the log cabin. It’s just my opinion, George, and I’m entitled to it,” Troast said, adding she was also concerned by the possibility of increased traffic on the residential street.
“The way he expressed it to us was that he was going to put a new playground there, put a fence around it, the docks were going to be used,” she said. “He was going to turn into a commercial area and I don’t know that it’s even zoned commercial.”
Tasker said he was “hot” over the whole ordeal.
“For two years I said … let’s advertise it and see if anybody else is interested and all I ever heard from anybody in this room was, ‘they’ll never want a golf course that’s losing money,’” he said. “And I heard it and heard it, and I suggested it and suggested it, and all of the sudden at the last minute we have an ideal situation to make a go and somebody willing to put his money into it, and now we want to advertise when there’s not time enough to advertise.”
Without a formal motion to advertise leasing the course, Cowger said the matter – and the course – was essentially closed.
“It’s dead. That’s what you’re telling me,” he said.
He clarified after the meeting.
“It just stays closed,” he said. “I see it just closing completely, like it was voted on two weeks ago. They didn’t instruct me to go out and advertise it. Unless somebody out of the blue comes back in and wants to meet with us and talk with us and make us an offer [the course will close].”
Cowger said the town would try to maintain the log cabin, if grant money allows for it.
“As far as the golf course, we’ll just cut the grass and that will be about it.”
To inquire about leasing the course, contact Cowger at 410-957-1333 ext. 107 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.