As full-time residents of Vail living on Sunburst Drive, we want to shed more light on our concerns, and those of many in our neighborhood, about the town of Vail's proposed conversion of the Vail Golf Course Clubhouse into a community event center.
First and foremost, we want to make it clear that we support and welcome a full renovation of the clubhouse. The Vail Golf Course is a wonderful asset for our town, but the clubhouse is in woeful need of updating. We all look forward to seeing it brought up to the level of quality we and our guests deserve.
Our objections lie not in the renovation of the clubhouse, but to the expansion of it at the expense of the 18th hole and the change in use of it from being a golf- and Nordic-related facility to a community event center.
At this point, a little history is in order to understand the current situation. In 1966, the Pulis family leased land to the Vail Metropolitan Recreation District for the sole purpose of creating the Vail Golf Course, with the condition that "A golf clubhouse may be built upon the leased premises. Any such golf clubhouse shall consist solely of facilities ordinarily available in such structures operated in conjunction with golf courses, but no lodging or full-service restaurant facilities shall be constructed or maintained on the leased premises."
In 1984, the golf course land was deeded to the town of Vail with the same restrictions on the clubhouse, plus the new, permanent restriction (the Pulis covenant) requiring the land "be used in perpetuity for a public golf course or open space or park for the benefit of the public and only such other related support facilities required for those purposes. This covenant shall run with the land and shall be binding. ..."
Fast forward to 2010, when the Vail Town Council reviewed a presentation from the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council proposing replacement of the Vail Golf Course clubhouse with a new indoor space of 8,000 square feet, including 3,000 square feet for a "200 seat restaurant or 250 seat banquet," and outdoor space of 6,000 square feet for a "500 person pavilion for weddings, reunions, events and gathering place for sports camps."
Over the course of the next year, further discussions followed in council meetings, during which time then-Mayor Dick Cleveland said that the new structure would be "on the same footprint as the existing clubhouse," and Councilman Andy Daly (now the mayor of the town of Vail) said the new area "is going to be a space that is enclosed within the existing clubhouse so that it is not an open pavilion."
On Nov. 8, 2011, the town of Vail submitted to voters a ballot measure regarding how to use the tax revenue collected from 2003 through 2005. The ballot measure sought voter approval for the "expansion and improvement of the clubhouse at the Vail Golf Course and Nordic Center, including multi-use community space."
The adopted ballot measure did not mention reducing the size of the golf course to accommodate 6,000 square feet of outdoor space for a 500-person outdoor tented pavilion, destroying the current 18th green and shortening the golf course, plans for 100 or more events to be held annually at a new pavilion, or the substantially increased cost compared to simply renovating or replacing the golf course clubhouse.
All of that brings us to the Vail Planning and Environment Committee meeting on Nov. 12, when plans were presented that showed:
- Significantly expanding the size of the clubhouse, including covered decks, patio and outside lawn area of the "event center" beyond the footprint of the current clubhouse.
- Golf and Nordic uses are reduced to approximately 25 percent of the total square footage of the proposed renovation (excluding parking areas for cars and golf carts).
- A proposed conditional use permit that would allow the use of the current 18th green for tent events. Weddings and events could be held outside, with the potential for up to 500 people.
- A significant change to the 18th hole would compromise the golfing experience.
- A mere 10 additional parking spaces are proposed to accommodate all of the new event uses in addition to the ongoing golf and Nordic uses.
There's a lot of information here, but what it boils down to is this: The restrictions on the land prohibit facilities beyond that of a golf clubhouse, yet the current architectural and operations plan are clearly geared toward having it be an event center (the plans even show a "bride's room" that is nearly half the size of the entire women's golf locker room, which isn't something you'd normally see in a golf course clubhouse).
The Town Council gave assurances that clubhouse renovations would be conducted within the existing footprint, yet the presented plans show an expanded building footprint plus an outdoor event area.
The shortening of the 18th hole is being done solely to accommodate the expanded event center operations, and will seriously detract from the golfing experience for which the course is known.
Ultimately, this is an issue about the town adhering to the conditions of the land which it received, adhering to assurances that were made to the public, and protecting the rights of property owners.
Yes, let's upgrade the golf course clubhouse and turn it into something of which we can all be proud. But let's not do it at the expense of homeowners, golfers, our ethics and the community.
Sam and Lu Maslak are Vail residents.