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Committee Split on How to Resolve Issues of Noise, Lighting and Safety at Driving Range

The Parks Commission meeting was briefed at Tuesday night's meeting on a committee formed to look into the future of the driving range.

The driving range at Ruth Park Golf Course has come under fire from neighbors who say it's loud, an eyesore and the lights are too bright.

A committee has been formed to look into how to resolve the issues, said Ewald Winker, the Interim Director of the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department. "There are a lot of complaints coming from the neighbors, so Mr. Walker (City Manager Lehman Walker) asked us to form a committee and we did," said Winker at Tuesday night's Park Commission meeting.

The driving range opened in 2008 and operates year round.

At Tuesday night's meeting, board member Linda Peoples asked if Walker had expressed any of his recommendations. Winker responded that Walker had not, although he added, "you know he's got some feeling about it (the driving range) or things would have stayed status quo."

Peoples said she was concerned "that every time we get a new city manager we're going to go back and change something that was previously put in place." Winker said all he could speak to was the current situation at hand.

"Let me just say that the current administration is more sympathetic to the neighbors than the last," said Winker.

Winker described the driving range committee as a very fair group, comprised of people who love the golf course very much.  Although, Winker said the committee is very split on exactly how to resolve the issues at the driving range. "We balanced it (the committee) so well that we're having trouble coming to a compromise," he said.

Board member Linda Peoples asked Winker who decided on the committee members. Winker responded that  committee members were chosen by himself, Doug Castellari, General Manager & PGA Professional at Ruth Park Golf Course, and  with a little help from the city manager.

Winker said more than half of the people on the golf committee were on the original committee. "It's a committee of neighbors, golfers, pro-range, anti-range." A list of committee members supplied to U City Patch showed no female representation on the committee.

The group has met two times since its inception. The next meeting is scheduled for tonight at Ruth Park Golf Course (pro shop) 8211 Groby at 7pm.

Winker said he gave each committee member a survey to fill out, and he hopes to use that as a guide so the group can come to some decisions about the golf course.

"Mr. Walker wants us to come up with some decisions tomorrow night," said Winker. He added, "He (Walker) wants to makes some decisions on these things and he wants to do it now, and what he wants he's going to get."

Winker said ideally, Walker would like to see the committee come up with the recommendations. "That would be the perfect thing, if the committee could come up and say hey this is what we've all decided," Winker said.

Winker said  he's going to have to make recommendations that not everybody is going to be happy with.

"I've made a living trying to please everybody. This is probably the toughest one I've ever bit off. I'm not going to be able to please everybody on this golf range."

Board member Caryn St. Clair brought up the fact that the City of Clayton put up $30,000 to help fund the driving range and asked whether Clayton had any say on changes that occur to the range.

"If drastic changes are made, can they say we want our money back?" inquired St. Clair. "I'm not a lawyer. I don't know," responded Winker.

Clayton is not involved in the driving range committee. "They're not at the table right now," said Winker. He said said maybe when the recommendations are made Clayton will get involved.

Board member William Field, who is a member of the driving range committee, doesn't think Clayton's lack of involvement in the range committee is a big deal. He said Clayton put up the money so that its residents could play at Ruth Park for U City resident rates. "Whatever happens at the driving range shouldn't effect that at all," he said.

When asked if he saw the committee reaching concrete recommendations at tonight's meeting, Field said ,"We're always hopeful."

Barbara Heise April 27, 2011 at 11:56 AM
What a bunch of hooey. I live in the neighborhood and would much rather have the driving range than pay more taxes to support the golf course!!!
Cindy April 27, 2011 at 01:33 PM
All meetings related to city business must be public. Committees, even advisory committees formed by the city manager, are subject to the Sunshine Law. That means the city must post notice of their meetings 24 hours in advance at city hall and the library. And, they must keep minutes of their meetings. This is one of the issues the state auditor cited the city for in the recent audit. If this isn’t done, this is a violation of the Sunshine Law.
Paul Gill April 27, 2011 at 06:38 PM
I've used the driving range quite a bit, albiet in the daylight. The range has been a very welcome addition to our community (from a golfer perspective who doesn't live beside it). I cannot speak as to how it impacts the living conditions of those who live directly across the street from it. I do not believe that it is an eyesore. Perhaps build a wall of some variety that is solid for 6-7 feet, then extend it upward with a screen that is designed to filter most of the light (talk about a potential eye sore). Perhaps the homeowners there would be willing to be a part of a workable solution by covering some of the cost of a wall. In my neighborhood in UCity we were asked to pay for the resurfacing of our street, and the amount was divided up by lot owners. Footing the bill for requested improvements/changes is not unprecidented. Another alternative is to agree upon either days of the week, or time periods of the year (spring/summer for example) when the lights can remain on up to a certain time, say 11pm or so. There must be some room from each position for consession. While negotiating it's unwise to take the "all or nothing" position. Concede what you can on each side, and we all will win. Hopefully our handicaps will go down as well.
Myra Lopez April 27, 2011 at 09:07 PM
A reader brought this to my attention and I thought it important to post. It regards the driving range committee and Sunshine Law. The reader noted that since City Manager Lehman Walker does not fit into any of the definitions of public governmental bodies subject to Sunshine Law he is not in violation of Sunshine Law. Here is the link to the MO web site that explains Sunshine Law pertaining to Public governmental bodies 610.010(4) The Sunshine Law governs the actions of public governmental bodies, which are defined as legislative, administrative or other governmental entities created by the constitution or statutes of this state, or by order or ordinance of any political subdivision or district as well as judicial entities when operating in an administrative capacity. This includes not just state agencies and officials, but also governing bodies of institutions of higher education; and any department of any political subdivision of the state, county or municipal government, school district or special-purpose district, including sewer and water districts. The term “governmental body” is defined to include “quasi-public governmental bodies,” which are defined in Section 610.010(4)(f). Public governmental bodies and quasi-public governmental bodies. CONTINUED
Myra Lopez April 27, 2011 at 09:08 PM
610.010. Definitions. As used in this chapter, unless the context otherwise indicates, the following terms mean: (4) “Public governmental body”, any legislative, administrative or governmental entity created by the constitution or statutes of this state, by order or ordinance of any political subdivision or district, judicial entities when operating in an administrative capacity, or by executive order, including: (a) Any body, agency, board, bureau, council, commission, committee, board of regents or board of curators or any other governing body of any institution of higher education, including a community college, which is supported in whole or in part from state funds, including but not limited to the administrative entity known as “The Curators of the University of Missouri” as established by section 172.020, RSMo; (b) Any advisory committee or commission appointed by the governor by executive order;
Myra Lopez April 27, 2011 at 09:09 PM
(c) Any department or division of the state, of any political subdivision of the state, of any county or of any municipal government, school district or special purpose district including but not limited to sewer districts, water districts, and other subdistricts of any political subdivision; (d) Any other legislative or administrative governmental deliberative body under the direction of three or more elected or appointed members having rulemaking or quasi-judicial power;
Myra Lopez April 27, 2011 at 09:10 PM
(e) Any committee appointed by or at the direction of any of the entities and which is authorized to report to any of the above-named entities, any advisory committee appointed by or at the direction of any of the named entities for the specific purpose of recommending, directly to the public governmental body's governing board or its chief administrative officer, policy or policy revisions or expenditures of public funds including, but not limited to, entities created to advise bi-state taxing districts regarding the expenditure of public funds, or any policy advisory body, policy advisory committee or policy advisory group appointed by a president, chancellor or chief executive officer of any college or university system or individual institution at the direction of the governing body of such institution which is supported in whole or in part with state funds for the specific purpose of recommending directly to the public governmental body's governing board or the president, chancellor or chief executive officer policy, policy revisions or expenditures of public funds provided, however, the staff of the college or university president, chancellor or chief executive officer shall not constitute such a policy advisory committee. The custodian of the records of any public governmental body shall maintain a list of the policy advisory committees described in this subdivision;
Cindy April 27, 2011 at 09:24 PM
Myra, thanks for posting the Sunshine Law RSMO610.010. Readers should draw their attention to section (e) which states: "Any committee appointed by or at the direction of any of the entities and which is authorized to report to any of the above-named entities, any advisory committee appointed by or at the direction of any of the named entities for the specific purpose of recommending, directly to the public governmental body's governing board or its chief administrative officer." In this instance, Lehman Walker is the chief administrative officer. And any comittee that he appoints and answers to him to advise him on policy, revisions, or expenditures of public funds is subject to the Sunshine Law.
Myra Lopez April 27, 2011 at 10:09 PM
I want to make clear, that I do not have an opinion on this Sunshine Law issue pertaining to the city manager. I'm just trying to get information out. That said, U City Patch has obtained information from the Sunshine Law Coordinator of the Office of the Missouri Attorney General, that states essentially that since the committee was formed by City Manager Lehman Walker, who is not an elected official, it does not qualify the committee as a public meeting. The information from the AG's office states that the committee in question does not meet the criteria listed in Section 610.010.4,RSMo, it does not fall under the purview of Missouri's Sunshine Law.
Cindy April 27, 2011 at 10:35 PM
If that is the case, then it certainly explains why the public was not informed of the committee when it was formed. As with other city committess and commissions, the public is usually invited to volunteer - why not this committee? It also explains why Mr. Walker did not make the following document available to the driving range committee. Among other things, the report states there is no light spillage from the driving range onto the the neighboring homes once the light hoods were adjusted. the REPORT TO CITY MANAGER ON RUTH PARK GOLF COURSE & DRIVING RANGE COMPLAINTS can be found at: www.ucitycitizen.org It is a sad commentary on the state of transparency at city hall that Mr. Walker had this report in hand when he ordered the lights at the range be turned off and did not even bother to share the report with the driving range committe. Rather a citizen had to request Mr. Winker provide the document to the committee for consideration prior to the meeting being held tonight. Even scarier, is the fact the council just voted to give Mr. Walker authority to make budget amendents with no review by the residents or the elected council. In essence, the council just voted to give carte blanche spending authority to a man that can hold as many closed meetings as he wants.

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