Town of Vail seeks contractor for clubhouse
By the numbers
$10.8 million: Current cost estimate of the Vail Golf Club clubhouse project.
82 percent: Town voters who approved a spending package including the clubhouse.
1,700 square feet: Size increase for the proposed new facility.
40: Projected inside occupancy increase with the new building.
This story has been clarified to reflect that the Vail Golf Club will remain open when the clubhouse is being rebuilt.
VAIL — Is there such a thing as moving too quickly on a project? It depends who you ask.
The project in question is the clubhouse at the Vail Golf Club. And the question about timing relates to a recent town request for proposals for a project manager and general contractor for a project that would, in essence, replace the existing building with something more modern. It would also be somewhat bigger.
Some residents believe the town should wait until a pair of legal disputes are resolved before moving ahead. Others say being ready to launch the project quickly will keep golf course running — and generating revenue for the cash-strapped Vail Recreation District, which operates the course.
The current building, which dates to the 1970s, has long been seen as ripe for an upgrade.
Town officials and the Vail Recreation District since 2011 have been working on plans for an extensive remodeling project — essentially replacing the structure from the foundation up. The idea was to pay for much of the project with money raised by a now-expired lodging tax that was originally intended to build a conference center.
In an election in November of 2011, 82 percent of town voters approved spending that tax money on a package of public projects that included the clubhouse. But the clubhouse has generated almost all the controversy related to the spending program.
The cost of the facility has been one problem. The Town Council in October agreed to add another $3.8 million to the project’s original $7 million budget.
The project has also faced stern opposition from neighbors and some golfers, who have opposed, variously, changes to the course’s 18th hole, as well as possible noise, parking and night lighting problems that might be created by the new facility.
Neighbors have challenged the plan in court, a process that isn’t yet finished.
Infringing on Covenants?
One suit alleges that the town ignored contractual restrictions, or covenants, attached to the sale of the old Pulis Ranch, the property that became the town’s golf course. Those covenants limit uses of the property.
That town prevailed in District Court in Eagle in March of 2014, when District Judge Paul Dunkleman issued a “summary judgment” in favor of the town, essentially dismissing the case. Neighbors have appealed that decision to the Colorado Court of Appeals, where it awaits further hearing.
The other court case challenged the town of Vail’s approval process for the plan. That case was initially dismissed in District Court on a technicality. The state’s appellate court recently re-opened that case and sent it back to District Court.
Vail Town Council member Dale Bugby, a longtime critic of the clubhouse plan, said the town would be wise to wait for the courts. But, he acknowledged, only one of those court decisions might derail the project.
The complaint about the town’s approval process is “probably correctable” for the town if the neighbors prevail.
The suit alleging violation of the covenants could pose a bigger problem for the town, Bugby said.
“We could end up spending even more money on a building we can’t use,” Bugby said.
The town’s policy, though, is to be ready. In an emailed statement, Vail Community Information Officer Suzanne Silverthorn wrote, “ … we’re continuing to move forward simultaneously with the approved clubhouse remodel plan and in the courts. This includes completing the development review process with the Design Review Board and preparing for a construction start in the fall.”
That schedule suits Tom Saalfeld.
Saalfeld is a member of the five-member Vail Recreation District board of directors. The district manages Vail’s recreation facilities, but isn’t part of the town’s government.
The district depends on revenue from the golf course, so closing the course, or the clubhouse, for any time will hurt the district’s ability to operate. But, Saalfeld said, the district isn’t making big policy decisions.
“We’re in the passenger seat and the town is behind the wheel,” Saalfeld said, adding that the district is “anxious to begin.”
Saalfeld said he views the current request for proposals from general contractors as a way to ensure that the town is prepared to start work in the fall.
“This way, we’ve set the table for when there’s a ruling (on the neighbors’ court case),” Saalfeld said.
The district’s biggest hope is for construction of the new facility to take as little time as possible, although the course itself would remain open.
“The (district) really wants to lose just one season if we can,” Saalfeld said.