Vail Valley Voices: Vail council doubted with changes to golf course clubhouse plan
Ryan Summerlin April 6, 2013
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report. We publish weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the town. The newsletter electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at www.vail
The Vail Town Council recently took steps on the golf course clubhouse redevelopment in what some see as a faint attempt to appear to be placating the objections of the neighborhood.
This is a matter on which the Vail Homeowners Association has been engaged for months. The point of contention is that the commercial uses of the clubhouse and its grounds for weddings, parties, special events or conferences violate protective covenants on the property.
Town’s claims of changes to project are not substantive: In its most recent action, the council stated that it was reducing the number of guests that could be accommodated at a group event in the indoor commercial event facilities.
But they did not substantively change the interior layout of the clubhouse, nor the proposed size of the building. Nor did they abandon the use of the area to be vacated by the relocation of the 18th green for outdoor social events.
In addition, critics of the proposed uses say the town’s method of calculating the number of people remains ambiguous and misleading.
In a further effort to mollify the neighborhood, the council committed to not allow event or golf parking on neighborhood streets, which already is prohibited by town code. Instead, it would implement “valet parking” in the clubhouse parking lot when events occurred.
While these minor changes are welcome, they seem at odds with the town’s economic analysis that appeared to say that it would be profitable for it to conduct as many commercial events at the facility as was feasible throughout the entire year.
They also do not address the core issue of the protective covenant on the property and the concern of many about the commercial nature of the proposed uses of the clubhouse.
Neighbors’ court action moving forward: On a separate front, the neighbors who have brought protective covenant litigation contesting the town of Vail’s authority to change the residential character of the neighborhood received another favorable ruling from the court.
The neighborhood plaintiffs gained agreement from the judge to move forward on narrowly focused motions dealing with the key issues in the case.
The motions would include issues such as determining the scope and prohibitions conferred by the protective covenants. The plaintiffs may now get resolution on many of the key issues of their case, even though the town has yet to complete the self-approval of its own application.
The town should compromise for the good of the entire community: Some observers have expressed concern that the town’s ego has become too tied up in the outcome of this project. There are those who believe the town is making a serious error in not working toward a meaningful compromise with its neighbors.
The perception of a negative ripple effect on residential property values throughout the entire community is fueling the over-commercialization sentiment that is finding voice well beyond the protesting golf course clubhouse neighborhood.
As residential owners lose property right protections, they will vote with their feet: More than 80 percent of Vail property owners are non-voting second-home owners. The town’s action to weaken protective covenants may be perceived as an effort to undermine property values, which will have an adverse affect upon non-resident and resident property owners.
The town’s wholesale emphasis on growing tourism to benefit certain business interests, at the expense of downgrading residential property rights, will likely cause a widespread move by homeowners to vote with their feet, finding other resort communities less hostile to their residential quality-of-life interests.
Watchful eye: It is likely that in April and May the Ford Park Phase 2 items will be back before the Town Council, and the golf course clubhouse redevelopment will be before the Planning and Environmental Commission. The Homeowners Association will continue to monitor the process, voice its position as necessary and report on developments.