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Financial problems force closure of Dawson’s Gold Creek Golf Club

POSTED: July 6, 2008 5:01 a.m.

What once was deemed Dawson County’s premier golf club has closed.

The closing is the latest chapter in the troubled history of Gold Creek Golf Club.

The club, operating as Gold Creek SL LLC, is nearly $118,000 in debt to Dawson County for property taxes dating back to 2006, according to Dawson County Tax Commissioner Linda Townley.

Gold Creek owes $62,452.35 for 2006 and $55,491.12 for 2007 property taxes, tax records show.

Townley said she was notified several months ago that the golf club was facing difficulties.

"We were told then that Regions Bank, their lender, was going to cover the 2006 taxes," Townley said. "But we later learned that was not the case."

A hearing is scheduled in August to determine if the county will seize the property, Townley said.

"I hate to see this happen; Gold Creek has been a big part of this community for a long time," she said.

Cathie Waddell, who operates her catering business from Gold Creek’s kitchen, said she first heard of the closing June 26 after employees in the golf shop were told not to return to work.

"I’ve been dealing with the shock," said Waddell, who was aware of pending financial problems, but surprised by the abrupt ending.

Waddell said employees have not been paid in two weeks.

Employees who were not previously notified of the pending closure arrived at work Friday morning to find notices posted on the front doors saying the business was closed and referring additional questions to a phone number.

Calls from the Dawson Community News, a sister paper of The Times, to the number on the notice went unanswered. Attempts to contact Bob and Jeff Tablak, owners of Gold Creek, were not answered.

Although residents in the upscale neighborhood were aware of financial difficulties the club has faced in recent months, golfers learned their memberships meant little when they arrived for their tee times Friday morning.

Marty Horn, president of the Gold Creek Homeowners Association, said the group is disappointed in the club’s closing.

"We spoke with the owners and offered to try to keep up the greens, which we were told would be lost if they go without water for three days," he said.

The owners, he said, wanted more than the group could offer.

Discussions now are taking place between Gold Creek members and the management at both Crystal Falls Golf Club and Chestatee Golf Club to offer golf to those who lost their memberships with Gold Creek’s closing, Horn said.

Horn acknowledged the homeowners association has had problems with the club’s ownership for quite some time. Several changes have taken place in the last year and a half, including staffing and the move to take the course from 27 to 18 holes.

The homeowners and club members are not the only ones affected by the club’s closing. Weddings, special events, golf outings and meetings planned for months must now be rescheduled.

Waddell, who is now catering from Crystal Falls Golf Club, said she spent the weekend speaking with brides who have to change their wedding plans.

"A dozen weddings we’ve been able to move, but one has canceled. Crystal Falls has been really nice by offering special rates for the brides," she said.

Waddell said she’s also worked with local utility companies to keep the power and water on for two weeks to fulfill previously scheduled events.

The chamber of commerce and the Lions and Rotary clubs hold regular meetings at the site. They are scrambling to change venues and make notifications about the changes.

The chamber’s July 10 luncheon still is scheduled for the club, Waddell said.

"Gold Creek has a history of being an excellent community amenity, and in its current status, there are broad-based casualties — jobs, neighborhood valuations, scheduled events," said Dawson County Commissioner Terri Tragesser, who also lives in the neighborhood.

Steve Holder, planning director for Dawsonville, also hopes to soon see a resolution. Dawsonville is currently in litigation with Gold Creek’s owners, the Tablaks, over what Holder describes as an unfulfilled contractual agreement.

"When they bought the property back in 2003, the agreement was to allow us to use Swan Lake (a small lake on the property) as a water reuse basin where treated water would be used for irrigating the course, and that never happened," Holder said.

"We have a staff meeting this week to talk about how we should move forward," he said.



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