Vail Daily column: What Vail is doing with the clubhouse
It’s no surprise that our plans for renovation of the Golf Course Clubhouse have been a topic of conversation lately. I think we can all agree that the current clubhouse facility is in serious need of upgrades to be more functional for current uses. What we can’t seem to agree on is how to get it done. While the process hasn’t been perfect by any means, it’s important to review the progression of the project, particularly in light of considerable misinformation that has come from those opposing the clubhouse improvement.
Let me take you back to 2011 when renovation of the Golf Course Clubhouse was overwhelmingly approved by voters as one of three projects to be funded by previously collected Conference Center Fund. An architect was selected and a design process was initiated to build upon the earlier work presented to voters. Since the election, the process has been guided by the very ballot language itself — to fund projects that will “promote recreation, promote tourism and support the economy.” Specifically, voters authorized “expansion and improvement of the clubhouse at the Vail Golf Course and Nordic Center, including multi-use community space.” This direction was supported by 87 percent of the electorate.
Next, came initial schematic designs intended to accomplish the community supported renovation. For many months, the designs were evaluated and continually refined by town staff and Town Council representatives, as well as our operational partners from the Vail Recreation District. We shared those initial sketches with adjacent property owners to better understand neighborhood concerns and impacts. Discussion topics included the size and uses of the clubhouse, location, adequacy of parking, traffic circulation, operational hours, lighting and enforcement of the noise ordinance. Each topic was meticulously evaluated which culminated in an 11-page Management and Operations Plan that was submitted to the Planning and Environmental Commission as part of the approval process. The Management and Operations Plan establishes hours of operation, maximum capacity, noise levels, parking requirements, exterior lighting, use of tents and other topics identified by the neighborhood. Incidentally, these are operational restrictions that aren’t required at the clubhouse today and are more restrictive than imposed on any restaurant or community space in town. They were offered as a meaningful compromise to the adjacent homeowners concerned with increased utilization of the clubhouse and possible noise and traffic impacts.
Meanwhile, as the town was addressing concerns expressed by the neighborhood, members of the extended community were also taking interest in the project. There were questions about the economic viability and financial impact of the planned renovation. An analysis was prepared by an independent economics firm which identified significant unmet demand of approximately $5 million associated with future use of the remodeled clubhouse. This equates to about 40 more functions a year which compares to an average of 22 events per year during 2011 and 2012.
In hindsight, the town’s consultants erred in initially calling the remodeled building an “event center,” a label that admittedly has taken on mythic proportions. A review of the public record shows a more moderate remodel. The total building area approved by the PEC in April 2013 is 21,841 square feet which is an addition of 2,974 square feet more than the current configuration, or a 16 percent increase. This is a modest increase considering the renovation has been designed to serve our needs for the next 40 to 50 years. While the restaurant/banquet space would be enlarged by 258 square feet, the more significant improvements include expansion of the ground level storage and locker rooms, an increase in the size of the pro shop, separation of the golfer’s grill from the restaurant/banquet space for greater functionality and the addition of a pre-function area. Maximum capacity for guests would be capped at 160 people, up slightly from today’s capacity of between 120 and 140 people. The 160-person cap was reached following an earlier recommendation to accommodate up to 200 people, another compromise agreed upon by the Town Council.
So, why is there a lawsuit? Through it all, eight plaintiffs from the neighborhood have contested the renovation, alleging the expansion violates an existing covenant on the property that was transferred when the land was acquired by the town in the 1980s. The Town Council, including myself, are of the opinion the renovation is well within the purview of the covenant for the purposes of golf, open space or parks, and that it is in the best interest of our community to continue with the remodel. While no new uses would be added to the improved facility, increased utilization is planned to honor a commitment made to our electorate when the Conference Center Fund reallocation was approved. Anything less would be a disservice to our community.
Andy Daly is the mayor of Vail.
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