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Golf resort developer drops plans for new Bandon course

BANDON — Bandon Dunes owner Mike Keiser pulled the plug today on the proposed Bandon Links golf project south of town.

Keiser had envisioned using a 280-acre portion of the Bandon State Natural area and his own adjoining property to build the 27-hole golf complex that would both provide a low-priced opportunity for South Coast golfers and also help fund the Evans Scholar program that provides full-ride college scholarships to caddies. He had been working with state parks officials on a land trade for several years.

Keiser said in a statement that his decision to drop the project was based on additional conditions the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has put down for the proposed land transfer to take place.

BLM officials told Keiser's team that, in keeping with federal regulations, fees charged on the golf course must compete with other nonprofit golf courses on federal land, while revenues generated must be used on the property.

Keiser added that recent well testing on the property turned in disappointing results, which would make it difficult to meet Oregon land use rules that protect land zoned for farming.

“As a result of these problems, I am abandoning the Bandon Links project and will seek a site where the same programs would be viable,” Keiser said in the release.

“This project had great promise for boosting the local economy and providing employment opportunities and job training. And the golf experience would have rivaled that which is present at Bandon Dunes Resort 15 miles to the north. So it is with great regret that I make this announcement.”

In Keiser's business plan, out-of-state golfers would pay resort prices of $200 to $250 per round. Oregonians would have paid about $30 a round and local golfers as little as $10 per round if they served as mentors for the student caddies. Meanwhile, up to 200 high school students would have the chance to earn money as caddies and be able to apply for the Evans Scholarships. A handful of students from the South Coast each year have earned the scholarships since Bandon Dunes opened.

Keiser also said the project would attract more Oregonians to Bandon to play on a high-quality, low-cost course, which would be a boost to the local tourism economy.

Seven years ago, Keiser hired renowned architect Gil Hanse, whose projects include the golf course in Brazil that will be used in the Olympics next year, to design Bandon Links.

He then began negotiating a land transfer with the state for the portion of Bandon State Natural Area. The Oregon State Parks Commission agreed in 2014 to trade the land to Keiser's company Bandon Biota in exchange for $2.5 million to purchase other land for parks, 216 acres of property Keiser owns on the South Coast — some near Bandon State Natural Area and some near Bullards Beach State Park — and funding for gorse control.

But the exchange also required the BLM to sign off on the deal, since some of the land was given to the state by the federal agency under the condition that it never be used as anything other than a park.

For more on this story, see theworldlink.com.