Real Estate News

City of Rocklin finalizes deal to buy Sunset Whitney Country Club

The city of Rocklin has finalized an agreement to buy about 184 acres of land on what used to be Rocklin Golf Club, long known as Sunset Whitney Country Club.

The $5.8 million purchase signed Dec. 20 concludes a drawn-out, bitter battle between former owner Charlie Gibson and the city of Rocklin. In a news release distributed Wednesday, the city of Rocklin said groundskeepers were already trying to mitigate some of the safety and environmental hazards ahead of reopening the area.

“Parks and open spaces are highly valued by the Rocklin community and the city’s purchase of the former Rocklin Golf Club has a multitude of benefits,” Mayor Ken Broadway said in the release. “This green space at the heart of the city will provide an oasis for outdoor activities.”

Golf courses across the U.S. have struggled over the last 10 years as young athletes migrate to more affordable sports. The National Golf Federation predicted 150 to 175 courses would close in 2017 after more than 200 were shuttered the previous year, with the final count to come sometime in the next few months. Locally, La Contenta Golf Club in Valley Springs and San Geronimo Golf Course in Marin have closed within the last month.

In many cases, the dirt is worth more than the grass. Gibson knew that in 2015 when he applied for permits to build 38 homes across five acres adjacent to the course, which he said would have been enough to keep Rocklin Golf Club afloat. When the Rocklin City Council unanimously rejected his proposal, Gibson announced the 54-year-old club’s closure and said he wouldn’t pay for the property’s upkeep.

The two sides signed a letter of intent that would allow the city of Rocklin to maintain the property ahead of an impending sale. When the city approached Gibson with a sales contract two weeks later, though, he was so incensed by their offer that he declared their partnership over.

Residents in the houses along Sunset Whitney then watched as their neighborhood’s jewel turned into an eyesore speckled with weeds, dead trees and chain-link fences. By the time a tentative agreement was announced in October, most people living along the golf course just wanted something productive to be done with the land.

“After the golf course closed in 2015 ... there were issues with reduced maintenance and trespassing and uses of the land,” city spokesman Michael Young said. “With the city owning it, we can be more accountable and hold ourselves to a higher standard of maintenance.”

The city will pay Gibson and absentee co-owner Joseph Syufy, president of Century Theatre Corp., $5.8 million over six years, including $2.8 million already put in an escrow account. Gibson bought the bank-owned property for $2.5 million in 2011 but said he lost money operating it over the next four years. Young said the city is paying less for the land than a hired appraiser estimated it was worth.

Respondents to a city survey said they want to see the Rocklin’s trail system expand, Wednesday’s news release said. Other possible uses include recreational parks and open space areas. Young said most of the existing temporary structures were likely to be removed, while main structures’ fates remain up in the air.

The city of Rocklin’s Parks, Recreation and Arts Commission is expected to discuss the purchase at its 6 p.m. meeting Wednesday at City Hall.

Benjy Egel: 916-321-1052, @BenjyEgel