Sale of Lycoming County’s White Deer Golf Complex ground to a halt recently with the uncovering of decades-old regulations due to federal funds given to the land.
Federal money used to assist with the purchase of the property during the 1980s was given on the condition the land be kept for recreational use, according to recent findings from county officials.
This means that the land can’t be used for anything other than for what the money was originally approved. The commissioners announced in September, 2019, they would be putting up the complex’s par-3 course for sale – the goal being to spark an economic growth corridor through the area.
For years, the county has actively been moving forward with plans to provide water and sewer utilities to that land in an effort to make it viable for homes or businesses in the future.
The county commissioners were visibly frustrated during their Thursday meeting as they informed the public of the set back.
“We invested in the land,” said Commissioner Tony Mussare. “That was supposed to be a growth corridor.”
The realization is made all the more troubling because the commissioners say there seems to be no record of the federal regulations in the property’s deed.
“It wasn’t memorialized. It wasn’t on the deed,” Mussare said. “We can’t even find the paperwork right now.”
Commissioner Scott Metzger was quick to assure the public that the sale of the property was not off the table, adding that a number of solutions are being considered.
“It’s another obstacle in the way. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop,” Metzger said. “Just another hoop we have to jump through.”
One possible solution would be for the county to purchase another piece of land with the same amount of money granted by the government, as a type of in-kind conversion, according to Commissioner Rick Mirabito. The new land would then fulfill what the federal government intended for the original piece of land, he said.
It’s another setback in a long journey for the golf course since it was purchased in the 1980s and then managed by the county’s recreation authority. After falling into disarray and building up substantial debt, the county took back control and hired Billy Casper Golf as a management company to raise the value of the entire complex and bring it out of debt.
The commissioner’s announced last month that the golf course made a profit in 2019 – the first year to do that since well before Bill Casper was hired.
The intended sale of par 3, one of the lesser-used pars at the course – would provide more funds for the course so it could continue to pay down its debt from a 2012 recreational bond.
In a similar issue, Mussare also announced that federal funds were used to purchase the Executive Plaza, where the majority of county government is housed. It’s unclear what regulations may be associated with those funds and if they would have an effect on the county’s plans to sell this property as well.
The commissioners announced in August, 2019, they would be looking to sell the building.