Vail’s 18th hole still alive, for now
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – The Vail Town Council voted Tuesday to postpone the decision about the realignment of the 18th hole at the Vail Golf Club – something many golfers and golf course-area residents strongly oppose and spoke out against for nearly two hours.
About 50 people packed into the Vail Town Council chambers Tuesday night to speak out against the realignment, which would change the 18th hole from a par 5 to a par 4 by moving the green to make room for the redesigned clubhouse and indoor/outdoor events space. Residents and golfers cited everything from decreased property values to an unsightly finishing area to safety concerns to a diminished golfing experience as the reasons they are against the proposal.
The conversation dates back to as early as January 2009, when the Vail Recreation District hired Phelps-Atkinson Golf Course Design, a Denver-based firm, to create a golf course master plan for the Vail Golf Club. Kevin Atkinson, the consultant, said Tuesday that his firm studied multiple ways to create more space around the clubhouse area, the so-called hub of the course – and this was well before the conversation of redesigning the clubhouse with town conference center funds came into play.
A few folks reminded the room full of frustrated residents and golfers of that very fact – that this conversation has been going on for years, and the outpouring of opposition would have been more productive much earlier in the process.
Shelley Hall, who recently finished her second term on the Vail Recreation District Board of Directors, said the board and the council don’t deserve the negativity they’ve been receiving.
“If you voted and then didn’t keep up, or lost interest with how these new projects would develop, it is a personal choice,” Hall said. “I don’t think that an 11th hour intervention by a few, that disrupts this project, is very fair to the many constituents which this course serves.”
While the tone of the meeting remained relatively cordial, there were a few moments of hostility. Colleen McCarthy said she was offended to have a former elected official “reprimand us in this room for not being involved and not following the process since 2009.”
The discussion seesawed between the need for a first-class events center that supporters and town officials say will be an economic driver and the need to keep the many golfers and local residents happy about the finishing hole, both for its golfing quality and for the views it provides residents.
Vail Recreation District board member Rick Sackbauer said the events center offers a tremendous return on investment – the board’s $1 million commitment would be returned in 7.3 years, he said.
“We either have to grow or we stagnate,” Sackbauer said. “I don’t think tonight’s discussion is about the 18th hole – I think it’s about building a competitive events center.”
But, some residents and golfers argued that the town and the Recreation District shouldn’t be in the events business – that government shouldn’t compete with the private sector.
Voters, however, approved the proposal last November – to use part of the town’s $9.4 million conference center fund to rebuild the clubhouse and add events space there.
Many say they never would have voted for the project, however, if they knew it would have meant changing the 18th hole.
Some town officials were frustrated that the realignment of the 18th hole was even being discussed alongside the clubhouse remodel since the two decisions were made separately.
It appeared four council members were already supportive of moving the hole Tuesday – Ludwig Kurz, Mayor Andy Daly, Greg Moffet and Margaret Rogers – although the decision will be brought back before the council at its July 17 meeting.
Rogers, a retired litigator, said she couldn’t ignore the safety issues brought up by Atkinson – safety issues that exist with the current configuration, before the remodel even comes into play.
“When we have been put on notice that we have a safety problem and we choose to do nothing about that, we would take out our checkbooks if anybody gets hurt and sues us,” Rogers said. “I am very concerned about the safety issue – it’s not something I can take lightly.”
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.
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