1,000 golfers, or 10,000 poor families?

San Agustin and Terlaje’s legislation to transform affordable housing landscape; some golfers object

Guam’s senators may soon decide what to do about the Chamorro Land Trust property where the Guam International Country Club golf course currently operates: Allow it to continue as a golf course, or accept a proposal that has the potential to infuse millions of dollars into infrastructure development that finally will get wait-listed CLTC applicants a shot at affordable homeownership.

The debate by proponents on each side turned contentious in front of senators present for a public hearing Thursday on Bill No. 179 by Joe San Agustin, with allegations of racism being thrown. Mr. San Agustin’s bill would allow the current leaseholders of GICC to convert the golf course to a solar farm. According to the proposal, GICC and its solar partner would bid on a Guam Power Authority procurement to sell the solar energy produced at the Dededo location into the power system. In exchange, GICC would increase its current annual lease payment for the property and frontload the present market value of that leasehold. The upfront cash payment to the CLTC is estimated to be $9 million.

Companion legislation by Therese Terlaje (also receiving a public hearing that day) would require that at least half that amount be deposited into the Chamorro Land Trust Survey and Infrastructure Fund, which currently earns the bulk of its cash from cable fees paid to the CLTC. That annual $600,000 is no where near the amounts needed to make a significant impact into the development of water, power, and wastewater infrastructure on the tens of thousands of undeveloped CLTC properties throughout the island.

The $9 million upfront proposed payment from GICC would make an exponentially greater impact, however Ms. Terlaje’s bill would multiply that number. Her Bill No. 288 would change Guam law related to the CLTC to allow CLTC to use the survey and infrastructure fund to pay for debt service on low interest loans the CLTC qualifies for through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Substantially Underserved Trust Area (SUTA) Initiative.

Carlos Camacho

On a 40-year loan that takes into account the GICC upfront payment, according to local housing expert Carlos Camacho who testified in favor of both bills, the CLTC can get up to $32 million in financing so it can construct the water, wastewater, and power infrastructure needed to get land into the hands of thousands of families.


Environmental impact: Golf course vs. solar farm

Pierre Tarrene

“People are very hot under the collar for not being part of the discussion,” GICC neighbor Pierre Tarrene said about his neighbors who surround the golf course and were not engaged by GICC or CLTC in the proposal. “People have very big concerns. Putting solar panels over wells is not a panacea. The project is not a panacea for CLTC. CLTC is grabbing at straws to get funding. It is not a solution long term. The structural issue of CLTC not being able to do their job properly remains the same. We’re sweeping dirt under the carpet and pretending nothing is happening.”

Guam Waterworks Authority financial chief Chris Budasi, who confirmed nine of the island’s water wells are situated on the golf course, said that as long as the solar panels are being maintained, there should not be an issue with well contamination.

Jerry Tang, who is GICC’s secretary said the solar panels they propose to develop on the property will be PFAS-free. PFAS are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances that, at elevated levels, are toxic. Others who testified in favor of Mr. San Agustin’s conversion authorization bill pointed out that solar farms, on top of aiding in the reduction of fossil fuel burning contamination to the environment, are far more environmentally friendly than golf courses, which use pesticides that are contaminating the water lens.

“[G]olf courses are often criticized for their negative impact on their natural surroundings,” a Rutgers University report states. “From groundwater pollution caused by fertilizers and pesticides to loss of natural habitats and wetlands, the concerns are great.”


The price of power vs. displacement of local golfers in need of reduced-price recreation

Van Shelly

Among the biggest points of opposition to the bill was the contention that converting GICC into a solar farm would take away opportunities for Guam’s estimated 1,000 golfers to have a course that charges municipal rates. GICC originally received the CLTC commercial lease to operate the golf course as a municipal golf course, which means it charges rates far below the other golf courses.

“I am here to testify on behalf of all seniors who deserve an affordable place to play golf,” Van Shelly told senators in his opposition to Bill No. 179. Mr. Shelly has been instrumental in the local junior golf association. He also said he testified for the several non-profit organizations who hold golf fundraisers to raise money for their various causes. “When I first heard what I thought was a ridiculous rumor that GICC would be closed and a solar farm would be built on the land, I thought, ‘There’s no way in the world this would be true. It just can’t be true. Our government would never allow a perfectly good golf course built for the morale and welfare of our community to be destroyed so that a solar farm could be built in its place.”

David Herrera

Not every golfer who testified agreed with Mr. Shelly. “I am a golfer myself,” David Herrera, a CLT commissioner said to senators, drawing a comparison between policy that affects what people need, and what people want. “Do I want to play golf? Yes. Do I need to play golf? No. Then we compare the economic condition of the 1,000 golfers in comparison and contrast to the 40,000 customers of GPA, and the 10,000 applicants that are awaiting to get land trust properties, and the 2,900 lessees that are awaiting for the infrastructure to come in.”

Another commissioner speaking in support of the San Agustin bill, Earl Garrido, said “The numbers support the arguments in favor of solar farms, because the numbers of rate payers versus the minute number of golfers doesn’t balance out evenly.”

Ron Laguana, a longtime Chamorro language and land use proponent testifying to senators in support of the bill in Chamorro made the plea:

Ron Laguana

“So many of our people don’t have the time to golf. They have to spend their time struggling to make a living. They have to farm and to fish. And they have no homes. I am asking you to represent those 10,000 applicants. This bill will infuse $9 million into the CLTC to build the infrastructure our people need. Remember the poor. They are living in filth. They don’t have power and water and sewage. Help our people. Help our people to have the power, the water, and sewage so they can live right and in peace. This is more important than a few people’s recreation.”

The concern over displacement, however, has been mitigated according to an April 23 letter filed with the legislature from Onward Talofofo Golf Club general manager Tamotsu Ito to William Reyes, president of the Guam Junior Golf Academy. According to that letter, junior golfers now can use the premium driving range at a 40 percent discount.

“While Onward Golf Club, along with its co-member golf clubs of the Guam Golf Course Association (“GGCA”) have always been proud supporters of Guam golf, offering reduced local rates that range from 30% to 70% of from tourist rates, depending on the season, we have heard your call to also support our Guam junior golfers and sincerely look forward to contributing to this effort,” Mr. Ito added in his letter.

Jerry Tang

Mr. Tang took another approach, saying that it’s not the CLTC’s mission to subsidize the cost of golf, but to get as many people onto those lands with the proper infrastructure and opportunity for affordable homeownership as possible.

“I’ve been a resident of Guam since I was four,” Mr. Tang started his testimony in favor of the bill. “I really consider myself – I mean I’m not ever going to be Chamorro, but – I think I’m about as close as an immigrant can be. I love this island. Having attended all these Chamorro Land Trust board meetings, it really just – it was an eye opener for me, for someone who’s been a resident of Guam for 48 years, I never realized just how many Chamorro families don’t have homes!”

As Mr. Tang was testifying about his support for affordable housing opportunities for the Chamorro people, Mr. Shelly began to interject. Mr. Tang told senators that what they are witnessing is not new, and that Mr. Shelly has been interrupting and talking over commissioners and others during CLTC meetings the past several months regarding this issue.

Mr. Tang told senators, “At one of these [CLTC] meetings he said, ‘Hey, all these Japanese owned courses, who do you think they’re gonna favor? The Japanese paying the high rates, or the locals? As a golfer, when you make a phone call to make a tee time, they don’t ask you, ‘hey are you a tourist? Are you a local?’ before they tell you if there’s space. Those type of insinuations are the type of stuff that promotes Asian hate that’s going on in the states. And they feel so privileged to just say that. It’s very very upsetting to me. It’s just not true. So many things are not true!”


Permanent home for CLTC, DLM, GALC

Mr. Tang also revealed that part of the proposal includes GICC entering into an agreement with CLTC, the Department of Land Management, and the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission for those three government agencies to move their operations permanently to the current GICC golf club house. He said the savings from the rent alone to the public will be more than $800,000 annually. Those agencies currently rent office space at the ITC Building in Tamuning.

“Why I like this bill: because it provides about $9 million up front,” Mr. Tang added. “What tenant can say that? The rent will be paid up front.”


  • David B Herrera

      05/19/2024 at 11:15 PM

    Thank you, Kandit News, for reporting on the Chamoru Land Trust Commission and its challenges relative to general management and policies. Bill 288-37, authored by Speaker Terlaje, and Bill 179-39, written by Senator San Agustin, are just a couple of innovative policies that will be integrated with statutes IAW local and federal USDA SUT & RUS. Kudos, and keep up the great work!

  • I am a leasee with the CLT, I have been approved for a disaster home loan. To date the commission have not been able to approve a guarantee to SBA for my loan. It’s been one year since the typhoon and have been living in an unsafe home with my family. CLT has tabled my file as well as other families from moving forward in building a home. We are asking that we be given a guarantee. So that we can start . I have been given the first increment to start the construction. I have also requested extension with SBA There is also no legal representation from the AG’s office so we are on hold again until such time. .How much longer do we have to wait for a decision.

  • Ti' bisnesmu

      05/20/2024 at 12:26 AM

    I play golf too. Da’lai, it’s not a big deal! There are course options in Windward, Talofofo, Yona and Mangilao. If I had it my way, close down Starts Golf course.

    Anyways, stop being big babies, we have bigger issues than to waste time talking about a place to get away from the wife and chase a small white ball all around in a golf cart with buddies while drinking beer and seeing who makes more money.

    Wake. up. Guam!

  • Denise Villegas

      05/20/2024 at 5:48 AM

    Van Shelly is a millionaire and his biggest concern is he wants his senior citizen discount to play golf? That makes me sick! Mr. Shelly isn’t aware or maybe doesn’t care about the thousands of our manamko who can’t afford to pay their power bill. A solar farm that will help reduce the cost of power versus discounted golf for a select few makes a lot of sense to me.

    • You say this like the ones backing the solar farm aren’t lined up to make millions of dollars. Ask yourself who are the investors behind it? The power issue is a result of GPA being completely incompetent and the government being inefficient with all the funds. They can build a solar farm anywhere else on the island to subsidize the grid. Ask yourself why the island can’t have both as an option and a golf course which has many benefits to the local community has to be what’s sacrificed. Countless organizations hold tournaments and various events to benefit local charities and initiatives. Go back and listen to the testimony again.

  • George Cruz

      05/20/2024 at 5:56 AM

    This Shelly dude is claiming he wants a discount to play golf? Then how come I hear Van Shelly is offering to buy the golf course? Something smells fishy here. Sounds like this guy thinks we brown folk are too stupid to see through his bs. He’s not looking out for senior golfers or developing junior golfers. He’s trying to make a bag of money. I guess you could say he doesn’t want solar power…he just wants power. Kuchinu!

    • You can put a solar farm anywhere on the island. You can have both a local golf course which serves the community and a solar farm in another location. Don’t believe this BS narrative that a solar farm only has one location it can go. Stop pretending like the solar farm company isn’t going to make millions of dollars. What, you think they’re going to sell the power to the people of Guam for free???

      George, us brown folk? Come on man. A local business leader that employs 100s of locals who also didn’t fire a single person during Covid when everyone else went under and made those employees beg for govt handouts. What have you done for our island? Do your homework.

  • The Title and the CLTC arguments are false equicalencies.
    From the start the Taiwanese management company of the GICC has been dealing in bad faith. From their fist lease, when they had to abide with severe environmental conditions set by the senator Brown, which were supposed to be enforced by Guam EPA, neither the government, the lessor(CLTC),or the lessee abided by these conditions.
    How can you then trust any of these parties to abide by their engagements in this new venture. The neighbors have to blindly trust three organizations that were unable and unwilling to keep their word. This is preposterous. As for this pie in the sky of 10thousands new housing units, it has as much chance to become real as a daily, direct non stop flight from Guam to San Francisco. Why should we trust a commission which until now has been plagued with corruption and ineptitude.
    Any one remembers the speedway snafu? People waiting for over 20 years to be put on a waiting list. What a joke. The list of legal obstacles to Mr Camacho dream is endless and deadly. This project intends to transform a green belt in a residential area into an industrial area. Not only are the environmental potentials for disaster are very real, but the economical consequences for thousands of home owners on 3 sides of the CLTC property will be felt for decades. Further Ghura 501 residents will become the 1st victims of the project. Talk about taking care of the poor citizens of Guam! It would be funny if it was not so dramatic! Finally the blunt racism displayed by the usual race baitors, is not surprising, but it certainly is very disturbing for an island, and people pretending to be catholic, it is really pathetic. Attacking a local business leader, who has created 100s of jobs over several decades in Guam, spent untold time, labor and treasure over the years to promote sport on the island, tells us about the pettiness and viciousness, of people that do nothing but collect from the labor of others… CLTC is pushing for the destruction and well being of hundreds and hundreds of Dededo residents for the profit of a foreign owned company, hoping to benefit from it somehow. Why then not inform the people of Dededo instead of trying to hide it?

  • As far as the toxicity of golf courses, while it wasa serious issue back in the 90s and earlier, environmental friendly methods have been in place for 3 decades. In the Asia Pacific region most responsible golf course manager have adopted these methods to get geo certified GICC is not one of these, despite the promises they took. Why should we trust them with the dangerous products of a industrial solar park. This is the definition of insanity

  • Jerry Tang is making a straw man argument to support Asian hate while confusing simple economics….

    Well done, Jerry. Your grasp of business sense demonstrates why GICC has been so unsuccessful.

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