Limited and Open Government

Kane Co. Is Out of Bounds with Golf Course Proposal

Building a golf course doesn’t sound like something the Kane County Water Conservancy District should be bent on doing. As unexpected as it might be, that is exactly what the district has planned.

The plan is to build a world-class golf course to attract tourists who will play the course and stay a while, generating tax income for the city and county. 

There are several problems with this approach.

First and foremost, this idea is not new. Cities and other local governments have purchased and funded golf courses in the past—it doesn’t usually go well. The city of South Jordan, for example, has bailed out golf courses in the past and still owns a course which has struggled to earn a profit in the past and still survives by the grace of the city’s budget.

Even Kanab has dumped money into a failing golf course. The Coral Cliffs golf course could not bring in enough revenue to pay for the operating expenses and eventually the course went under.

Proponents of the course argue that a world-class designer and enough marketing will ensure that the course income can pay the bills. Even the failed golf courses likely seemed like a great idea at the outset. There’s no reason to believe that the results will be any different this time around.

Even if the golf course plans went off without a hitch, financially speaking, the question remains: is this the proper role of government and an appropriate use of taxpayer money? The answer is no.

There is no existing precedent for a water conservancy district to build a golf course. It’s certainly not an intuitive or common sense action for a water conservancy district to take. The state law that establishes the purpose of water conservancy districts says nothing about golf or recreation. The district has argued that their 2017 water management plan states that the district was organized for “the purpose of conserving and developing water for multiple uses,” including recreation. 

Such vague reasoning could justify the building of an amusement park by a water conservancy district. If government organizations are not held to their specific, stated purposes, the floodgates are opened for all sorts of unnecessary spending and harmful overreach. 

There is no reason that the water district should be using taxpayer dollars to engage in risk-laden and completely unnecessary investment schemes.