Representatives of the Cheekwood Golf Club in suburban Franklin, Tennessee, defended their proposed development against claims it would become a party center during a tense public exchange Tuesday night at the meeting of the city’s mayor and city council meeting.
Franklin-based Cheekwood Golf Club has been holding talks for the past four years to rent 54 acres of undeveloped land owned by the city along Mack Hatcher Parkway near Spencer Creek Drive. During this time, the City of Franklin was granted permission by the state to amend its statutes to allow it to enter into 50-year leases, which is the lease term the golf club is seeking.
But now, after months of back and forth and eight proposed leases between Cheekwood Golf Club and the city, they stand still on several issues, golf club attorney Doug Hale said during the meeting.
Hale described the problems as follows: a disagreement over the height of the building Cheekwood plans to build; the city wants the club to close at dusk; the city wants to ban the sale of alcohol in the club; and the city wants the “unilateral right to terminate this lease at any time during the 50 years”.
The lawyer described the standstill as “a bit frustrating for both sides”.
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Clear up misunderstandings
Describing its proposed development as a luxurious, world-class golf facility that will be the pride of the city for decades to come, Cheekwood Golf Club has tapped into Nicklaus Design, a Florida-based golf club design company that operates 400 has built extends over 40 countries.
But city officials repeatedly voiced their concern that the club, which would be in a residential area, might degenerate into a party center, and compared it to Topgolf, a Nashville party venue with golf courses – a comparison that made project investor Paul Pratt Jr.
“About 4,000 questions and falsehoods have been said about this project,” he said. “Everyone I meet says it’s top golf. … It is insulting to say that this is top golf. It’s offensive to Nicklaus Design Group and it’s offensive to the people involved. “
The clubhouse will take up less than 3% of the property, Pratt said, and will be very different from an entertainment facility.
Alderman Dana McLendon expressed concern that if the lease does not prohibit subletting, Cheekwood could grow tired of its property and turn it over to Topgolf, which raises city guides’ fears.
“I’m fine with a world class, world class golf teaching facility,” said McLendon. “I think people who drink beer while playing golf are American. I am in favor. I think it would be great if that was somehow cobbled together with a family-friendly atmosphere. … But I’m not going to sit here and let myself be fooled. “
“We won’t have any flashy neon lights,” he said. “We are a golf-centric program. We are not a party-centered program. We’re not going to make loud music. … We won’t, I think they are called ‘woo woo’ girls. “
Project has evolved
City administrator Eric Stuckey acknowledged the tensions surrounding the project, pointing out changes to plans in recent years that have made the city hesitant. He said Tuesday’s meeting was most of what the city had heard in months about the project’s specific plans regarding the facility, calling the slow trickle of information a “red flag.”
“If we can’t get past that, I can’t in good faith recommend an agreement unless it specifies what it will and won’t be,” he said.
Alderman Clyde Barnhill described the latest proposal as “enormous” compared to what was originally presented in early discussions.
“It has nothing to do with what we approved on the front end,” Alderman Margaret Martin said. “This is a huge, tech-packed store in a residential area. … But do you see where we are? We approved a golf course here that was the least intrusive and least intrusive thing we could have in this area to save the country, and here we are at this huge business like Palm Springs. We’re just a small town that wants a golf course. “
Pratt stated that things have changed in golf in recent years, even only since the coronavirus pandemic. Although the project will be larger, the basis of the plan has stayed the same: a golf facility that allows people of all abilities and timings to play the game.
He hopes that if approved, the club can offer the facility to local high schools for practice. The club is in discussion with a local group that has a youth golf program but did not elaborate on it.
If approved, the facility would have a nine-hole course, a practice area for junior golfers, virtual indoor courses, a three-story covered putt box and a driving range. In addition, six custom-built houses, a southern restaurant and a public exit point would be built on the property.
Reach Brinley Hineman at email@example.com and on Twitter @brinleyhineman.