The city council of the largest city in the state of Utah is scrambling to get their game together—their golf game, that is. Public courses in Salt Lake City are in trouble, with debt and deferral causing headaches for the government, prompting them to come up with solutions fast, and their solutions are to shut ‘em down. But one golf course, nine-hole Nibley near 2700 S. 700 East, has been saved. Not by the bell, but by its deed, as a real estate attorney could explain.
When the Nibley family gave the land to the city in 1922, their own real estate attorney in Salt Lake was full of foresight, writing up the contract so that the land must be used only as a golf course or returned to the Nibley family. So while the Salt Lake City Council is busy slashing golf courses off the list, Nibley won’t be one of them, though Wingpointe and Glendale or Jordan River Par 3 might not be so fortunate.
For golf lovers in the valley, it is bad news. The city’s courses have run up a debt of about $1.5 million in operations and “has more than $20 million in deferred maintenance.” The greens should be self-sustaining, with fees for play and cart rentals supporting the courses, because “by city ordinance, it cannot be supported by taxpayers and the general fund.” And lagging behind a sound fiscal operating plan, the golf enterprise in Salt Lake has come under intense scrutiny by not only the City Council, but Mayor Ralph Becker himself, who “said if the council did not find a solution, he would.”
A real estate attorney in Salt Lake knows that Glendale and Wingpointe, as well as Jordan Par 3 are not so lucky as Nibley to be protected by their deeds, and they may indeed see closure. Wingpointe would be “given to Salt Lake City International Airport” and Glendale “transformed for other recreational needs.” Jordan Par 3, meanwhile, would be designated simply as “open space” that needs far less maintenance than an entire golf course.
Tee Spjute or any other real estate attorney in Utah knows that the City Council was up against a dead-end in targeting Nibley. But the Council remained hopeful for months, soliciting advice from “consultants, a citizens advisory committee, and…proposals from Westminster College students and business students from the University of Utah.” But try as they might, transforming Nibley was a no-go. Even though they were “briefed on more than one occasion that the Nibley links could not be transformed for other uses because of the deed restrictions,” it took an attorney reiterating “the legal reality” regarding the deed for the council to give up on the plan.
The budget for the upcoming fiscal year hasn’t been completed, but “the administration is optimistic that discarding Wingpointe and closing Glendale and the Jordan River Par 3 could be enough to get the golf system back on an even keel,” to the disappointment of fans of the three courses.