Friday, March 23, 2007

Sun Valley golf clubhouse gets green light

P&Z recommends rezoning, approves design review

Express Staff Writer

Architects rendering by Ruscitto/Latham/Blanton Architecture Sun Valley Co.?s proposed Nordic and golf center will be located on the east side of Trail Creek Road, approximately one mile north of the existing Nordic center.

The Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission agreed Thursday, March 22, to recommend approval of the rezoning application of portions of Sun Valley Co.'s property along Trail Creek and adjacent to the existing 18-hole golf course.

The purpose of the rezone is to allow for a new Nordic and golf center to be built on the east side of Trail Creek Road, approximately one mile north of the existing Nordic facility.

The request goes next to the City Council.

The golf center will be able to service both the existing course and the nine-hole Gun Club 9, currently under construction. In the future, Sun Valley Co. plans to add another nine holes, bringing the total to 36-holes of golf in the Trail Creek area.

The facility is planned to be roughly 54,000 square feet. The main level would include a food service, lounge and bar area with a fireplaces, a golf pro shop, clubhouse locker rooms, storage and administrative offices. The lower level would feature a Nordic repair and rental area that opens up to the snow, an indoor golf range and 136 spaces for golf cart storage. Upstairs, there would be two apartments, each roughly 734 square feet.

Also planned is an outside patio overlooking the putting green; it would feature a bar area and outdoor fireplace.

Onsite improvements include a Himalayas putting green (considered the gold standard in putting greens), a reconfigured driving range, a croquet course, a bocce ball court and additional parking.

In addition to the rezone recommendation, the commission unanimously approved the design review application of the proposed building. The design review approval is contingent upon the City Council's approval of the recommended rezone and a conditional use permit by the commission.

"Personally, I think this is a gorgeous building and this is going to be a tremendous asset," said commission Vice Chair John Gaeddert.

The City Council tentatively plans to discuss the rezone application April 19. If approved, "We would like to begin before the end of April, we need to get going on this," said Sun Valley Co. General Manager Wally Huffman.

The project is expected to take around 15 months to complete.

The rezone would change just over 25 acres from Single Family Residential and Outdoor Recreation zoning to Recreation District only.

The rezone would be consistent with the Sun Valley Master Plan approved by the City Council in May 2006, said Community Development Director Mark Hofman.

The thrust of the commission's discussion centered on lighting in and around the new facility.

Sun Valley in 2004 adopted the so-called "Dark Sky Ordinance" that limits the types of exterior lighting permitted on commercial and residential properties.

"One of the strongest assets we have, having grown up in a city, is walking out my driveway and looking at the night sky," said Commissioner Ken Herich.

Huffman said with the amount of financial investment required to complete the project, "We're motivated to use it as much as we can."

Winter plans could include Nordic night skiing, complete with lighting along groomed trails on the proposed driving range and around the perimeter of the existing 18-hole golf course. The lighting issue is still under discussion and could change substantially before construction begins.

"I don't see it being a big issue in the summer (because it stays light until 8 or 9 at night)," Huffman said. "But, during the winter it may be an issue."

Commissioner David Brown raised the question of whether light for Nordic skiing is even needed.

"I'd ask cross-country skiers if they would rather ski in the dark and be able to watch the stars," Brown said. "I'd rather ski in dim light than be inundated with light."

Light exuded from the building itself was also an issue before the commission on Thursday.

"We haven't contemplated using it for weddings ... but I do foresee people wanting to use it for parties, and we are going to have a hard time saying 'no' to them," Huffman said.

Huffman said that at Carol's Dollar Mountain Lodge, Sun Valley Co. installed automatic shades that draw closed during the brightest parts of the day. Those same blinds could be used at night in the Nordic and Golf Center to keep light in, he suggested.

"We'll do it, we really think those (the automatic shades) are swell," Huffman said.

Parking area lights were also discussed.

Gaeddert suggested possibly lowering the lighting poles but then adding more of them to compensate for the loss of lighted area. The lights Sun Valley Co. is planning to use are of the same height and specifications as the ones used at Carol's Dollar Mountain Lodge—17 feet tall.

Another possibility is to install motion-sensing lights in the parking lots, "but those don't always work," Huffman said.

"I don't think any of us (the architectural team) disagree with you on this (the desire to minimize light pollution)," said architect Nicholas Latham. "But there are liability issues here for Sun Valley Co."

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