Murrysville Golf Club owner seeks rezoning for future development

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Although they say they have no immediate plans to sell, the owners of the Murrysville Golf Club have asked the municipality to rezone most of the golf course property to lay the groundwork for future development.

About 107 acres of the 137-acre property along Sardis Road is currently zoned R-R, residential/rural. The remaining 30 acres are zoned R-1, residential. Although the property could be used for single-family homes with its current zoning, the request to change the zoning to R-1 is aimed at maximizing the number of homes a developer could build there.

Jim Geiger, president of the golf club, said the golf business has changed and he can foresee the day when his family might want to head for greener pastures.

"The problem across the golfing industry is that we can't raise rates to keep up with the increases in costs," he said. "Things like gas, fertilizer, mowers, carts, personnel have all gone up in price. Hundreds of courses have closed in the past few years, especially in Florida, Texas and California, where courses were built in conjunction with housing developments.

"We are actually doing OK. We'll definitely be in business next year and probably a few years after that, but golf industry experts have always projected that baby boomers would retire and play golf. That was to be the salvation of the golf business, but it hasn't happened that way. We still have a lot of loyal players, but sometime in the future, whether it is three years or 10 years or 20 years from now, I guarantee this course will sell."

In 2005, Murrysville Golf Club and Meadowink Golf Club, another golf course on Sardis Road, requested a change from R-R to R-1 zoning. The request from both golf courses was denied.

Mr. Geiger said that the new comprehensive planning process being undertaken by the municipality has prompted their request to rezone. In golf terms, this amounts to a mulligan.

Developer Richard Kacin told council that his vision for the property would be to respond to a demand in the housing market for a new style of single-level living.

"We are talking about really good architecture, sidewalks, front porches and open spaces, but everything is built on one level," he said.

Under R-R zoning, the 137-acre property could accommodate 56 single-family homes. Under R-1, it could accommodate 85. Mr. Kacin told council members the additional revenue would make the project financially feasible because the cost to build it would require lengthy runs for public water and sewer lines.

He also pointed out that a development of this size could increase tax revenues from $25,000 to $1,000,000 annually.

Mr. Geiger said the Murrysville Golf Club course was built by his grandparents, James and Georgina Noble, in 1930.

Council president Joan Kearns asked Mr. Kacin how the plan would address some of the biodiversity areas on the property.

"We would have to protect [the biodiversity area], whether it is zoned R-R or R-1," Mr. Kacin said. "We still have to abide by the environmental requirements. There would still be a lot of open space. Many of the trees were planted on the golf course over 50 years ago. If a tree can stay, we would keep it. That is our vision."

Unsaid but understood is that once the property is developed, it would never return to being a golf course. Eventually, Mr. Geiger's stories of runaway cows on the greens or the time an airplane landed on the fairway will fade from memory.

Council instructed the solicitor to draw up an ordinance for the rezoning to be considered after the next council meeting.

Tim Means, freelance writer:

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