Neighbors to pursue lawsuit against town
January 8, 2014
VAIL — The latest news that the town of Vail's Planning and Environmental Commission has approved remodel plans for the Vail Gold Course Clubhouse isn't making golf course neighbors any happier.
The PEC voted 4-0 to approved remodel plans last week with changes that include a reduction in capacity of the banquet room from 200 to 160 people — a reduction approved by the Vail Town Council in March — and a parking plan that provides 125 spaces that can accommodate 158 cars through valet parking. The plan also prohibits overflow parking on Sunburst Drive — a detail neighbors in the area had previously been concerned about — which was also approved by the town council in March.
The plan also calls for an operations and management plan for the facility, which would make sure its uses remain "compatible with the existing and potential surrounding uses in the neighborhood," according to a town of Vail news release.
But such plans aren't viewed as sufficient by the neighbors, according to attorney Chris Toll, who is representing nearby homeowners in a lawsuit against the town of Vail. The town moved to have the suit dismissed, but a district court judge ruled the neighbors could continue with their complaint in court.
"All three of the new changes the Town proposed are changes to the Operations Plan, which continues to represent a complete change in purpose of the building. As proposed, it will be a commercial events center with incidental golf clubhouse use, rather than a golf clubhouse that hosts the occasional event," Toll said via email to the Vail Daily on Friday. "The Town plans to have weddings in the clubhouse every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday all summer long. The anticipated use of the clubhouse is simply too much for the area — a commercial operation of this nature is out of place in quiet, residential neighborhood. And the changes the Town has proposed do nothing to alter the fact that the project violates the restrictive covenant in the deed for the golf course land."
The covenant Toll is referring to dates back to 1984, when the Pulis family — who owned one of the original ranches on the valley floor — first sold the golf course property to the town of Vail.
A covenant in that sale document requires the property be used only for a public golf course, park or open space. A clubhouse on such property would not be allowed to be used for commercial purposes unrelated to golf, residents say.
"Since covenants were contractual agreements that could not be changed or redefined without approval of the property owners, they gave legally binding assurances to investors in real estate that their investment would be protected against undesirable uses, buildings and activities," according to the Vail Homeowner's Association. "The obligation to abide by covenant-protected uses and design review function was central to the deliberations leading to the formation of the Vail municipal government. Once the town of Vail was incorporated and zoning was adopted, the zoning was a reflection of the protective covenants. This was done as a fulfillment of the binding agreement obligated in the protective covenants to property owners."
Toll said his clients have always supported and enouraged a renovation and upgrade of the clubhouse, but they still have many issues with the proposal. The capacity reduction, for example, doesn't reduce the size of the banquet room. A future council could easily eliminate the capacity restrictions, he said.
Toll said there is also "no meaningful evidence" that the valet parking plan will work.
"It is a fanciful plan that ignores the crush that will occu when weddings and golf activities overlap," Toll said. "There is no provision for police or security attendance to monitor parking violations on Sunburst Drive."
The neighbors are also not happy with the plans to convert the 18th hold from a par 5 to a par 4 in order to make room for the upgrades.
"My clients will continue to pursue their claims in the litigation," Toll said. " At the most recent status conference, the judge directed the parties to proceed with certain written motions that will address the key issues in the case: whether the Project as proposed violates the Pulis Covenant, whether the Project violates the 2011 ballot issue relating to funding of the Project, and whether a property purchased with Real Estate Transfer Tax funds (as the golf course was) can be used for commercial purposes as the Town now plans."
PEC member Michael Kurz said the commission's members do not comment on pending applications.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.