VAIL, Colorado - The neighbors of the Vail golf course clubhouse won a recent victory in the group's lawsuit against the town of Vail and Vail Recreation District.
The town and recreation district had asked District Judge Frederick Gannett to dismiss the suit, filed last year. Gannett on Jan. 15 rejected that motion. That means the town and recreation district now have to answer the homeowners' complaint.
That complaint is based in large part on one paragraph of a 1984 document that sold the golf course property to the town - for $2.65 million. The Pulis family, which owned one of the original ranches on the valley floor, had first leased the golf course property to the town.
Part of that sale document contains language known as a "covenant" that requires the buyer to maintain the property "... 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."
"That's a cornerstone of our case," said attorney Chris Toll, of Denver-based Holland and Hart, the law firm representing the golf course neighbors.
Toll said part of the legal wrangling will probably involve just who can interpret and enforce the covenant attached to the property.
Sam Maslak, one of the golf course neighbors, said the idea of whether or not that covenant can be enforced goes beyond this dispute with the town.
"If (town officials) can ignore the covenant here, they can ignore covenants elsewhere," Maslak said. That, he added, could affect property values across the town.
And it's property values that lie at the heart of the neighbors' complaints. Neighbors believe their homes might be worth less if the town continues with plans to use the golf course clubhouse as a small events center, aimed primarily at weddings and private parties.
Weddings are held at the clubhouse now but only about 15 per year, Maslak said. A small events center could bring 100 events over 120 days or so, he said.
"That's a massive, invasive increase in scale," Maslak said.
And that simply doesn't fit in with the neighborhood.
Maslak and his neighbors also are worried about the parking needs that would come with such a center. Even if wedding parties are required to take shuttles to the clubhouse, Maslak said parking is already at a premium at the course.
Since the dispute with the neighbors is in court, Vail Town Attorney Matt Mire wouldn't comment on the case. Vail Town Council member Greg Moffet wouldn't go much farther but did have one comment.
"If you look at the ballot language and the vote total ... there you go," Moffet said.
While the neighbors say they don't want what's currently proposed, Maslak said the group does want the clubhouse renovated.
"I can't see a problem with 15 weddings a year," Maslak said. "But the idea of a place that businesses in town use as part of their business plans is just too much."