New River Golf Course: Keiser Tries Again, and Then Withdraws, at Bandon State Natural Area

Aerial photo of Keiser’s Now-Withdrawn New River Golf Course Proposal. Courtesy Coos County.

Michael Keiser, the golf course developer and owner, has Bandon State Park in his sights again, as he did seven years ago. Only the details differ — but the outcome is unclear at this time.

Bandon Biota LLC (a Keiser Company) in July 2022 submitted an application to Coos County for a new, 300-acre golf course south of Bandon, in the New River area. It was designed to be directly adjacent to Bandon State Park, which is a designated state natural area, along its entire length. The application described it as a conditional use application for an 18-hole golf course, with accessory uses, including a clubhouse/restaurant with parking, a maintenance facility, a restroom/vendors facility, more restrooms, a caddy shack and a practice range.

Biota owns some 600 acres in the area, and is proposing to use about half its ownership, 300 acres, for the new golf course. All Biota’s lands, and all the surrounding lands, except Bandon State Natural Area, are zoned Exclusive Farm Use, and most are in current or past cranberry farms. After the application was submitted in July, the county deemed it incomplete, but Bandon Biota subsequently provided all the additional information requested by Coos County, and the application came before the Coos County planning commission in December 2022, then in January 2023 for a final work session and decision. The planning commission approved the golf course, but decided to require a second, new, application for the associated buildings. Oregon Coast Alliance appealed the decision to the Board of Commissioners. Five days later, Biota withdrew the application from consideration, without explanation or comment.

Is that the end of the proposed golf course on the flanks of Bandon State Natural Area? Most unlikely, though the applicant’s next steps are currently unknown; but Mr. Keiser has a long history in this area, and will probably try another tactic.

In about 2013, Mr. Keiser proposed to purchase some 280 acres of Bandon State Natural Area to incorporate into a proposed golf course in the exact same location. The deal, approved by the Parks Commission at that time, fell apart in 2015 when it was discovered that Mr. Keiser had hired a well-drilling company to enter the park before he had any ownership rights in the property. The company dug three deep bore holes and crushed quite a bit of native forest habitat with large equipment. Publicity of Mr. Keiser’s illegal action led to the Bureau of Land Management (who holds reversionary rights on the state park if it is not used for recreation purposes) canceling the project.

The new golf course proposal lay outside the state park, but directly adjacent to it. ORCA opposed the first golf course Mr. Keiser proposed for this area, and we strongly opposed this one also. The narrow strip of dune and farmland between cranberry farms and a large, important state park is no place for a golf course. Not only would it have adverse effect on the habitats and fragile ecosystems of the park, but it would affect the local water table, which is based in sandy, porous soils, and the rural infrastructure needed to keep a vigorous farming community active.

ORCA remains vigilant for Bandon Biota’s next move in their longterm strategy to place a golf course in this unsuitable location.

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