With just a week to go before voters in the Stonebridge neighborhood cast ballots on a whopping 45-mill tax that would fund the purchase of the subdivision's golf course, opposition to the measure seems to be getting louder.
Voters in the neighborhood of about 900 homes on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish will decide Saturday whether to approve the 20-year tax, which advocates say will help maintain property values in the subdivision and prevent the 189-acre, 27-hole course from being redeveloped into something less desirable.
But many homeowners who oppose the tax say they haven't been given any options for the property besides keeping it as a golf course. They accuse proponents of trying to persuade the roughly 60 percent of residents who don't live in homes abutting the course to subsidize those who do. And they wonder why, if only a few dozen residents have golf course memberships, the entire neighborhood should get into the golf business.
"I'm not opposed to the residents purchasing the property," said Neicie Deloney, who has lived in Stonebridge since 1994. "I would like to see other options before we take this to a vote."
If the proposal passes, most homeowners will see a big jump in their property tax bills. The neighborhood's minimum house size is 2,500 square feet, and many homes are far larger. The owner of a $300,000 house with a homestead exemption would pay an additional $1,012 per year in taxes. For a property worth $500,000, the cost would be $1,912 annually. If the home is worth $700,000, the owner would pay another $2,812 per year.
The tax would be levied by the Stonebridge Neighborhood Improvement and Beautification District, a political subdivision created in 2016 with the golf course purchase in mind. The tax would generate about $949,000 per year.
Several residents noted that nine holes of the course have been closed for some time because of lack of play. But the purchase agreement the district has entered into with the company that owns the course stipulates that those holes must be brought back into playable condition before the sale could go through.
It would be golf of the people, by the people and for the people.
Resident Carl Hatfield said he is worried that residents who are on fixed incomes or who purchased their homes after the financial downturn in 2008 may not be able to afford the higher taxes.
Another resident, Randy McCallum, accused some of the proponents of using scare tactics to gain support. "They were saying if this land is not purchased and the golf course returned to its former glory ... the land could be used for a trailer park," he said. "I don't see that happening."
Others point to a nationwide decline in golf that has seen many courses around the country closed. They say projections that the course could be made profitable within a decade are overly optimistic.
Some note the $400 security fee that residents pay already and say the new tax is just too much.
Ancil Taylor, one of the proponents of the tax, said the plan is to give the residents the option of deciding what to do with the property if the measure passes. The neighborhood's covenants require that it remain a golf facility until the middle of 2019, and at that time, residents could move to add walking or jogging trails to the property, he said.
"The whole thing is about giving residents a choice or not on the property," he said.
He noted that the next public meeting to discuss the matter will be Thursday, two days before the vote. At that time, he pledged, the district's board members will answer any questions or concerns raised by residents.
Regardless of the outcome, Taylor said, he will still wake up on Nov. 19 a Stonebridge resident. Opponents of the plan "will still be my neighbors," he said.