Golf communities sprout near Byron, Lake City, Wanamingo
By Joshua Lynsen and John Weiss
A growing number of southeastern Minnesota cities are using golf communities -- golf courses surrounded by homes -- to spur economic growth.
The developments vary in size but typically cater to people who want upscale homes alongside a high-quality golf course. Three such communities now under construction in the area offer homes ranging in price from $120,000 to more than $1 million for some homes.
Byron City Administrator Jerry Henricks said the Somerby Golf Community appeals to home buyers seeking security.
"I think it's peace of mind," he said. "If you live on the golf course, you know you're not going to have a disposal plant built behind you. You're on pristine land."
Families are already living in some of the homes dotting Somerby's 450 acres. People also have started moving into The Jewel, an 800-acre development in Lake City. Emerald Valley Golf Community, a 150-acre development in Wanamingo, is under construction.
But the developments have not come without problems. Complaints about construction runoff in Lake City prompted a $20,000 fine from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the developers also agreed to $185,000 in corrective measures.
Lake City Mayor Willard Bremer said complaints have dropped off since The Jewel seeded much of its land and built storm water ponds.
"I would say the biggest problems are behind us," he said. "Everything is moving pretty much according to plan."
Although the golf communities have caused some growing pains, city leaders expect them to become great assets. Already they've helped attract other projects to Byron and Wanamingo.
Wanamingo City Administrator Elmer Brocker said Emerald Valley will help the rural Goodhue County city of 1,000 grow economically and socially.
"It's going to provide for a lot of housing in the city, and it's going to provide a golf course for entertainment," he said. "I think it will form a nice recreation area for the residents of the city and the surrounding areas."
City officials admit the golf courses aren't for everyone. Bremer said some people fear The Jewel might ruin the small-town feeling of Lake City, a community of 5,000 people on the shore of Lake Pepin.
Henricks said some in Byron, population 4,500, have criticized Somerby as being only for golfers. "Does everybody golf? No," he said, "but as one person who moved there said, 'I don't golf, but I sure like how quiet it is.'"