April 11, 2009 in City

Recession club not so private and exclusive

By Correspondent
 

During these trying economic times, I’ve been desperately trying to stay optimistic, stay positive and seek the silver lining in our Great Recession.

Then I saw this headline: “Black Rock North faces foreclosure.”

See? Not everything is grim news.

If the recession results in one less luxury-golf-upscale-lifestyle- housing-resort on Lake Coeur d’Alene, then it can’t be all bad.

At least it might result in more room for the elk.

Actually, I don’t wish misfortune on anyone, even upscale luxury golf course developers. I hope the developers, the bankers, the dozer operators and especially the construction workers can emerge from this mess intact. Nobody wins if loans go into default and checks bounce.

Still, every time I drove past Black Rock last summer and fall, the same question formed in my mind: “Exactly why do we need a second fancy golf course at Black Rock?”

Everything in moderation is my motto, even when it comes to luxury golf resorts.

Black Rock already has one fancy private golf course-housing development, called the Club at Black Rock. This course is not exactly overrun with hackers. This may have something to do with the fact that you must be a member to play, and to be a member you have to be, essentially, rich.

Its “member cabins” are tastefully designed and widely spaced, although at just a little under a million, they don’t fit my – how can I put this? – personal financial style.

Yet I do not have a problem with the original Club at Black Rock. I like gazing out at the beautiful rolling fairways and the beautiful white sand, even if I can’t actually play there.

However, when they started bulldozing that second course, Black Rock North, well, that got under my skin. Coeur d’Alene already has the Coeur d’Alene Resort, Gozzer Ranch and the first Black Rock course. How many more golf courses do we actually need where locals can’t afford to play?

Up until last year the answer was always: As many as the market would bear.

Now, that market has collapsed. Not one single home or lot has sold at Black Rock North. A similar fate befell the Idaho Club in Sandpoint, another high-end golf development. Sales were close to nonexistent in 2008.

So here, in an ironic way, is the true silver lining in this recession. It’s so deep and so severe, it’s blasting the rich as well as the poor. I wouldn’t exactly call that a good thing, but it might at least be corrective.

For the past decade or two, the balance between America’s rich and the rest of us was becoming dangerously skewed. North Idaho was, in many ways, a perfect illustration of that. These “member cabins” were plopped down right in the middle of – well, North Idaho. It’s a culture of outbuildings and vegetable gardens and woodpiles stacked up for the winter. Let’s just say that most farmers and loggers did not live in “a heavenly retreat, exclusive and private.” A person could get severe cultural whiplash, driving out to Rockford Bay.

So, now, some balance may have been restored, at least for the time being.

A recession is not good for anyone, nor is a foreclosure. But at least, we common folk have now something in common with the rich: None of us can afford to live in Black Rock North.

Jim Kershner can be reached at (509) 459-5493 or by e-mail at jimk@spokesman.com.


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