The board of St. Joseph Bay Golf Club has agreed to an agreement under which the county will purchase the course and maintain it as a golf course for at least three years.
The purchase price is $390,000, effectively the club’s existing debt, and the county agreed to put $100,000 per year of TDC bed tax revenue into the facility for three years after which the Board of County Commissioners will consider its next move.
If, after that period, the county decides to disengage from the golf course, the current board would have the right of first refusal on any purchase.
During a meeting Tuesday, the county formally accepted Request for Qualifications from potential operators of the golf course.
County Administrator Michael Hammond said he hoped to close on the purchase by July 1.
If not for the county purchase, the golf course would have likely been closed before the end of the summer, said Guerry Magidson, a member of the club’s board.
The county is using fifth-penny bed tax money for the purchase as well, wishing to expand the county’s parks footprint.
In a letter to be provided to the Coastal Community Association of Gulf County and county Tourist Development Council for distribution, the BOCC addressed a grassroots effort to eliminate, via the courts if required, beach driving in the county.
Over the long holiday weekend, county workers removed a number of signs protesting beach driving and urging a battle to overturn the ordinance.
The BOCC letter detailed that the county established an Erosion Control Line, as required by state mandate, as part of a beach restoration project more than a decade ago.
Establishing that line and placing sand purchased with public dollars to restore the beach in effect rendered the beach public.
And the county, through ordinances pertaining to beach driving and Leave No Trace, has also long established a “customary use” exemption to any private claim over the beach water-side of the ECL.
“Once public funds were expended on that beach sand, the easement was established and it is not a private beach,” said Commissioner Phil McCroan.
McCroan added that while the vast majority of those holding beach driving permits adhered to the law on speed limit and access points, there would always be “that 1 percent” that will drive over dunes or sea oats to get to the beach.
And, McCroan added, beach driving has existed for decades in Gulf County, which is part of the “culture and customs” of the county, Hammond said.
“I totally agree with what you are doing,” said Dr. Pat Hardman, president of the CCA. “We don’t have enough public access as it is.”
Among several final readings and adoptions of ordinances, two were particularly noteworthy.
One placed a ban in the county on any medical marijuana dispensary or treatment center.
The ban is based on population thresholds outlined by a state policy council for the Florida Legislature and subsequently overturned by a district court.
“We are not banning medical marijuana,” Hammond said. “We are banning one of these (dispensaries) from opening in your backyard.”
Hammond added that given state rules on dispensaries, the only viable location in the county would be off Industrial Road north of the city limits of Port St. Joe.
But, he added, he doubted any dispensary in the county would be economically viable.
Commissioners also adopted an ordinance extending the fifth penny of bed tax, to be used to market tourism via parks and recreation, for another five years.
A majority of voters, statewide and in the county, supported the legalization of medical marijuana.
The initial ordinance establishing the fifth penny will sunset this year.