Article Courtesy of Florida
By Dave Berman and Eric Rogers
Published May 20, 2018
Two groups are in the process of taking over the three Brevard County-owned golf
courses — The Savannahs on Merritt Island, The Habitat in Grant-Valkaria and
Spessard Holland, which is south of Melbourne Beach.
It's part of the effort by county
government to get out of the golf course business, once and
for all. County commissioners have been wanting to do so for
a long time, and these two deals will enable that to happen
Meanwhile, the county has settled a breach-of-contract
lawsuit it filed against the management company that
previously operated the three courses.
Here's where things stand:
The Savannahs may soon be privately operated by a group of
local investors as the county seeks to finalize a deal with
the Savannahs at Sykes Creek Homeowners' Association.
Under the new agreement, approved in March, the county will
directly subsidize maintenance costs in two annual payments
of $350,000 and support operations and improvements through
a $1.2 million fixed line of credit extended to a newly
formed community development district, which will lease the
property from the HOA and assume the course's maintenance
and management responsibilities.
If the county approves a newly formed community
development district on Tuesday, the district plans to contract out
management responsibilities to the privately owned Savannahs
County commissioners are set to vote on the community
development district on Tuesday.
Assuming the vote goes through, the district plans to contract out
management duties to the privately owned Savannahs Partners LLC.
"We think this can be a pretty lucrative organization and licensed course,
with the right management," Savannahs Partners Vice President John
All five members of the group's board are homeowners in the community or
have been involved with the Savannahs for many years, uniquely suiting them
to rehabilitate the troubled course, Richardson said.
"With our background, being involved there for so long, we have a pretty
good insight what the problems have been in the past," he said. "The county
wanted out, and we looked at this as a good opportunity to make the
Plans for improvement include re-establishing restaurant facilities and
renovating the course's ailing sand traps. The group also is looking at ways
to make the notoriously difficult course more attractive to casual or less
The homeowners' association is scheduled to assume ownership on June 1, with
the group taking over management possibly as soon as July.
Habitat, Spessard Holland
County commissioners have approved a 49-month agreement with a new nonprofit
organization of local residents called Golf Brevard Inc. to operate The
Habitat and Spessard Holland, effective Sept. 1.
Under the agreement, the county will pay Golf Brevard a $490,000
"transitional fund." Golf Brevard will be required to pay back $390,000 of
that amount in three annual payments of $130,000 each on Sept. 1, 2021,
Sept. 1, 2022, and Sept. 1, 2023. Additionally, if Golf Brevard's cash
reserves exceed $500,000 on Oct. 1 during the first two years of the
agreement, the amount above $500,000 will be paid to Brevard County.
The agreement — which can be renewed three times for an additional total of
20 years — was approved 4-1, with County Commissioner John Tobia voting no.
In a separate vote, commissioners unanimously approved Golf Brevard's
seven-member board of directors.
"Make us proud out there," County Commission Chair Rita Pritchett told Golf
Brevard representative Tom Becker of Indialantic, who will be one of the
Contingency plan rejected
Commissioners, however, rejected a proposal by Tobia to approve a
contingency plan if Golf Brevard defaults on its agreement.
Tobia's proposal never received a second, so it did not come up for a formal
Under Tobia's proposal:
• If Golf Brevard defaults on its agreement, county staff would issue a
request for proposals, seeking investment partners to bring the golf courses
up to standards to make the courses marketable for sale or lease to third
parties, with provisions for profit-sharing.
• If there is no response to the request for proposals, staff would proceed
to a plan to convert Spessard Holland to a public park and revert the
Habitat property to Valkaria Airport.
County Commission Vice Chair Kristine Isnardi said she sees Tobia's
resolution as "another law for the books that is unnecessary," since
commissioners already are empowered to do what the resolution suggests.
"We absolutely do have the power to act," Tobia responded. "The problem is
we just don't. We do not make definitive decisions."
County commissioners unanimously approved a settlement of the county's
lawsuit against the company that operated the three courses.
Under the settlement, Integrity Golf Co. LLC, three affiliated companies and
their principal, Eugene Garrote, agreed to pay the county $200,000 over a
five-year period, with a $20,000 upfront payment, followed by 60 payments of
$3,000 a month.
If there is a default in payment, Garrote would be personally responsible to
pay the county $500,000.
Integrity Golf took over operations of the three courses, starting Feb. 1,
2016. In July 2017, Integrity notified the county that it was terminating
the management agreements, effective at the end of that month, because it
was losing money on the operation.
Commissioners in July unanimously decided to have International Golf
Maintenance Inc. temporarily provide operation and maintenance services for
the three courses while the County Commission considered long-term options.
Commissioners in October directed the county attorney's office to begin
legal action against Integrity, for its alleged breach of its 10-year
agreement with the county. The complaint was filed in March.