Supervisors vote 4-2 for golf course plan

Published 10:23 am Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The majority of Southampton County supervisors on Monday voted 4-2 for granting $30,000 to shore up the Cypress Cove Country Club. In exchange, non-members would be allowed to play golf at a reduced rate.

The votes in favor were from Vice Chairman Ronnie West, Barry Porter, Carl Faison and Randolph Cook. Those against were Dr. Alan Edwards and Bruce Phillips.

The vote is the culmination of two months of discussion and public comment, including letters to this newspaper. Most of the people speaking or writing about the issue have been emphatically against the proposal, which was brought up at the board meeting in August. The opponents say the action would be a subsidy. In this case, using taxpayers’ dollars for the government to support a private business.

Before the vote, though, residents got another opportunity to voice their thoughts on the matter during the Citizens’ Comment period.

Among the many speakers was Southampton School Board member Florence Reynolds, who said, “I’m still reeling under the outrageous consideration. I’m not sure this is even legal. I can’t believe it. Some of us have been asking for recreation for 30 years.”

She went on to call golf an elitist game.

“Who do you see people playing golf? People with money,” Reynolds continued. “What happens next year? This is public money raised for public use.”

For support in her opposition, she called on like-minded audience members to stand and be counted.

Nearly everyone stood up per her request. Nearly everyone but two women, Lynn Rabil and Cindy Moore.

Rabil, who acknowledged feeling like a “lone wolf” in her support, said she is a club member and one who wants to offer a different perspective. Rabil said that while recruiting a potential employee for her business, the subject of area amenities came up and the mention of the golf course is one that’s attracting that candidate. Further, she noted that thousands of dollars are raised through tournaments there by various local businesses and organizations.

Moore, who lives on the golf course, said she sees everyone who plays: “police, retirees, teachers … ordinary folks. I see families — fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, etc. There are not really many places for families to participate.”

She also said that if the club were to close, tax assessments would decrease, which has been an argument that proponents have made for the support.

Not incidentally, Franklin City Council voted 6-1 during its Aug. 28 meeting to also provide $30,000, contingent on the supervisors’ vote.

Gary Cross of Black Creek, president of Southampton County Farm Bureau, said, “I ask board to take a second look and see what else we can do.”

Other speakers suggested that the county’s contribution could go toward baseball and softball or even returned to the schools for needed repairs.

When the time came for the supervisors to discuss the issue, Dr. Alan Edwards maintained his opposition to the idea.

“We’ve gone about this problem the wrong way,” he said. “It’s a disjointed effort. Let’s sit down and  identify the problems rather than throwing money out like this. It’ll be wasted.”

Supervisor Bruce Phillips, who last month had asked to have the matter continued, agreed that the golf course is an asset. He suggested another postponement “until we can see what can be achieved by the friends of the golf course.” That motion was seconded by Edwards and supported by Carl Faison, who later said, “Generally, I don’t think using tax dollars for the purpose is a good idea.”

But the other supervisors — Ronnie West, Barry Porter and Randolph Cook, supported by Chairman Dallas Jones’ tie-breaking vote — wanted a decision made that night.

Porter said he’s not received one call from constituents saying no the proposal.

He urged people to take advantage of the golfing opportunity as a way to support what he and other supervisors consider an asset to the region.

[Editor’s Note: The second paragraph was added to clarify who exactly voted for or against the measure.]