Friday, March 20, 2009

Golf Course Plans Include Condos on City and WSU Land

A sneak peek at the golf course committee's true purpose

by Dan Schroeder

Nearly 10 months after the formation of the city's "independent" (i.e., under the mayor's control) golf course committee, its true purpose is becoming clear.

Last week, in response to a GRAMA request from Bill C., the city reluctantly released copies of the latest conceptual plans for a redesigned Mt. Ogden Golf Course. I was able to take photos of the two plans, which I've reduced to a manageable size for Weber County Forum readers (click images to enarge):
Golf Course Plan Option A
Golf Course Plan Option B
These plans are, of course, preliminary, and we were told that a new revision is currently underway. Nevertheless, these plans presumably reflect the general goals of the committee and the mayor.

As we anticipated, both plans call for a complete reconstruction and rerouting of the course, to accommodate the relocation of the clubhouse to the south end, where it would be accessed from the top of 36th Street. Both plans would entail clearing some of the larger forested and brush-covered areas within the course. And both plans include a significant southward expansion onto land owned by WSU.

Regarding WSU, we should recall the official university statement that Curmudgeon posted here last week:
The following caveats should be mentioned regarding use of WSU land. First, any land used for the golf course should be located in the "no-build" zone of campus (identified in a recent seismic study) or in adjacent areas determined to be undevelopable for university functions. Second, the WSU land should primarily remain as green space. Golf holes or a driving range would be deemed as appropriate uses. Third and finally, any existing WSU buildings or infrastructure that are displaced by the golf course expansion would need to be relocated to other parts of the campus at no cost to the university.
How do the plans measure up to these three constraints? Both plans would indeed require relocation of the two WSU service buildings located above 36th Street, presumably at a cost of several million dollars. The "no-build" zone includes these buildings (which wouldn't have been constructed there under today's seismic safety standards) and a bit of surrounding land, but does not extend much farther south. Both plans, however, would extend the driving range somewhat south of the no-build zone, while Option B would put a golf green still farther south, at the tentative location of a future WSU building. Option B would also require relocating a portion of 36th Street and eliminating a WSU parking area.

The main conflict, however, is with the second of WSU's criteria. Both plans show several acres near the clubhouse occupied by new condominiums, with some of these condos spilling onto WSU-owned land. (I've highlighted the WSU property boundary in purple on the maps.) Option A even shows the clubhouse itself (which is also a hotel) and its parking lot on WSU land. While the mayor would undoubtedly argue that the use of WSU land is still "primarily" for green space, it seems unlikely that WSU would see it that way.

Neither plan shows what would become of the trails that currently pass through the development area. Even if new trail alignments can be found, their character would be profoundly different.

In any case, it's now clear that the mayor hopes to finance the golf course reconstruction, at least in part, through the sale or lease of a portion of the city's land for condominium development. The city's portion of the proposed development area coincides, at least roughly, with the area that was conspicuously omitted from the restrictive covenant document that the mayor signed just before the 2007 election.

What isn't so clear is whether such a scheme is economically feasible--especially with the added expense of relocating the two large WSU buildings. Also, remember that WSU considers most of this area to be a "no-build" zone, and the Wasatch Fault extends northward onto the city's property as well. Working around active fault traces would significantly limit the amount of buildable land, and hence the number of condos.

So for many reasons, I'm not predicting that anything like these plans will ever be implemented. But there's still one big reason why Ogden residents should be concerned: We're already paying for a new water system to facilitate these developments. The city is about to replace the two existing water tanks with a larger and higher tank on the north side of Strong's Canyon, with a second tank higher still. These new tanks would provide plenty of water pressure for the entire development depicted in these plans, and also free up the location of the existing tanks for condominium development. And we're paying for all of it through our increased utility bills.

Thanks, mayor, for wasting our money on yet another of your fantasies.

25 comments:

what will it cost us said...

How can the public be more mad with the committee being hand picked that only support the mayors ideas. Every citizens committee has campaign donors, no experience or common sense.

The city has more debt now than in any previous administration yet our city services are cut back. Out taxes and water rates are the highest in the state, empty storefronts with for lease signs everywhere.

Our only hope is the city council to stop this madness. The golf course so-called debt could be paid off with one swipe of the pen. The recent Flowrider repair cost is more than the golf course lost last year. How much money does the Junction return to the city? The bond payments for the Junction would pay for the course for many years.

For the high adventure moniker the mayor will destroy Ogdens uniqueness and trail system. Homes high on the unstable hill side with the current economny downhill. Look at all the new homes in bankrupcy.

I expect, demand from the city council that they audit the Junction independently. That all development data received from the Mayors office be reviewed by experts, not just department managers or directors. There have been too many mistakes lately. Mayor spending and then asking for permission from the council. That all taxpayers money be accounted for, where does the Mayor have slush funds to tap into when he illegaly pays for services.

Fianlly if this plan goes forward after all the work the Mt. Ogden Community put into their plan they now need a fund set up for attorney fees to fight the city. To keep the city park and golf course and trails for the city citizens use. It is mandated that cities provide services for its citizens at resonable costs. The city is not a money making operation. If it was all the current managers would of been fired for the recent mistakes.

Where will the money come from to make these improvements? Golf course club house and Hotel on the curve top of 36th? I'll agree to this when the other projects in Ogden are completed, River Project and all the condos and retail sold at the Junction.

Who can remind the Mayor this is real money not just a Visa card....

needs water said...

Dan,I may be mistaken, but I was under the impression that the work on the water lines and water towers was due to the lack of water pressure for those who live high on the east bench, not because of some pie-in-the-sky golf course condo project. Wasn't infrastructure, particularly the water lines something that needed to be done? Are you telling us now that this is a waste of money? on;y about the Mayor's golf course plans?

cato said...

Clearly there are no golfers on this committee. A par three finishing hole?? You've got to be kidding me.
Another issue raised by WSU had to do with the length of the course. If the WSU golf teams were going to use it (part of the agreement for giving land to the city for redesign) the course would need to be significantly lengthened. Not sure that either option here would fit the bill.
And last, i love how both plans have a "winter sports area" included.
What did Geiger once write on this site? The reason why we don't tell anyone what our plans are is that it would just give our opponents the chance to point out all the problems (or something like that).

OgdenLover said...

Since when has financial feasibility been a concern of the Mayor's?

dan s. said...

needs water,

I didn't mean to imply that no upgrades to the water system are needed to solve the pressure problems for existing customers who live high on the east bench. But the magnitude of the planned upgrades goes well beyond what would be needed just for existing customers.

cato,

The plans were drawn by Jon Garner who works for Nicklaus. Both versions come out longer than the current course, though I don't know by how much.

blackrulon said...

I am curious as to when the reported losses on Mount Ogden Golf course first appeared? The oft repeated statement yhat the course operates at a loss bring another question. Do any of the cities other parks show a profit or break even?

dap said...

It is a golf course that people have to pay for access to and can't be used for any other purpose during the summer months It is not a public park.

So it is a fair question, do we as taxpayers supplement the enjoyment of a golf course for a small segment of the population?

If it is about parks and open space, then lets make it a park. Then it wouldn't have to make money just like the other parks.

Dorrene Jeske said...

Golf Course Plan to be revealed to the Council April 9th, at Council Work Session at 5:30 PM.

The Mayor plans to reveal his golf course plans to the Council in a work meeing April 9th at 5:30 PM in the Council Conference Room on the 3rd Floor. If there is enough interest by the public, I believe that the meeting will be moved and held in Council Chambers.

Dan is right about condos being built on the east bench by the golf course. Last week during the comment section of Council meeting, the Mayor replied to my question whether the rumors I had heard about the golf course were true, “The golf course modification needs to be funded by developing condos by it.”

Dan, you wrote: “The following caveats should be mentioned regarding use of WSU land. First, any land used for the golf course should be located in the "no-build" zone of campus (identified in a recent seismic study) or in adjacent areas determined to be undevelopable for university functions. Second, the WSU land should primarily remain as green space. Golf holes or a driving range would be deemed as appropriate uses. Third and finally, any existing WSU buildings or infrastructure that are displaced by the golf course expansion would need to be relocated to other parts of the campus at no cost to the university.” There is a fourth caveat – the Mayor has not received the approval of the City Council for the modification plan nor approval of about $12 million for funding it.

I think it's interesting that the hand-picked golf course committee didn't visit all municipal-managed golf courses so that their report isn't valid because it is like comparing apples to oranges.

I encourage everyone to reserve April 9th and attend the Council Work Session. The more input we receive the better.
Thanks!

Curmudgeon said...

Well, Dap, seems to me your argument would end with the elimination of all public parks. Ogden has public tennis courts, for example, which serve only "a small segment of the population" overall. It has softball fields [ditto]. It maintains hiking trails [ditto]. And soccer fields [ditto as far as serving a minority of the city's population].

In the US, it's been considered wise public policy for municipalities to provide a variety of recreational opportunities for the general public to use, no one of which is likely to be used by a majority of the residents. There's presumed to be a general consensus that runs something like this: I will not oppose public funds for soccer fields and softball fields you and your children want; you will not oppose public finds for a [public swimming pool/golf course/tennis courts/picnic area/hiking trail --- pick a couple] I and my family want.

If you required majority use of every public recreational venue, not one park of any type would be justified. You may differ on this, but I don't think I'd want to live in a city without parks.

Dr. Freud of Vienna said...

This is my condsidered medical opinion about what would be good for poor little frustrated Mayor Godfrey, who has now plainly gone criminally insane:

Here's the basic concept.

Show a little 19th century style Christian compassion people!

Godfrey can't help it that's he's completerly f'd up!

Let a word to the wise be sufficient.

Let's all agree to commit the little guy to a mental institution, rather than to make him a bunk-mate for life with his pal, Val Southwick, in Draper.

Godfrey is VERY bad. But not THAT BAD.

democrat said...

More government handouts for the rich.

What will it cost us said...

Dap, as a taxpayer I object to subsidizing the Junction for a small segment of Ogdenites that use the kiddyland, flourescent bowling, climbing rock and gym.

The bond payment coming due for the Junction shortly is $750K of BDO funds that should be used to lower the residents water rates for repairs and upgrades.

Cities function is to provide for recreation parks, golf courses, tennis courts, trails, fire and police protection. Ogden city is supporting business leases that don't even cover the bond payment and their leases are fixed for 20 years.
Give me a break, most city golf courses don't make a profit, especially if they are underfunder, not enough golf carts and signage to get golfers there.

dan s. said...

By the way, it's interesting to note that the clubhouse parking area on the Option A map is slightly smaller than the existing parking area over by the tennis courts. Of course, the existing parking area doubles as parking for the courts and soccer fields, to some extent. But still, you'd think that a greatly expanded clubhouse (with a hotel!) would require a greatly expanded parking area.

The Option B map doesn't show any parking at all for the clubhouse.

I suppose they could put additional parking underground, or even build a parking garage. That would be another big addition to the expense, and the location would then be limited to avoid fault traces, as with other buildings.

Curmudgeon said...

Dan:

You wrote: The Option B map doesn't show any parking at all for the clubhouse.

What a mistake! I mean, how does he think people are going to get there? By gondola?

Oh.... never mind.

danny said...

Hopefully we are in a new environment now, compared to two years ago when "borrow and spend" was seen as a path to riches by the stupid, like the people who voted for Godfrey.

Godfrey's latest proposal was predictable - throw tax dollars at his principal campaign contributors among developer, banking, and realty cronies.

Now that his plans to date continue to crash in slow motion, one can hope that the entire debate concerning Godfrey's golf course proposal can be summed up in three letters:

D.O.A.

dan s. said...

I asked a friend who knows about such things to estimate the cost of relocating a quarter-mile stretch of 36th Street, as called for by the Option B plan.

Answer: about $2 million.

Wants Integrity in Mayor said...

Knowing how Godfrey operates, he is probably planning to suggest sharing a parking tower with WSU. WSU would contribute the land and the City would build the parking tower.

He doesn't posess a conscience when he goes after something he wants.

Just Say NO to Godfrey! said...

Isn't it interesting that the Mayor is constantly complaining about the cost of maintaining the Mount Ogden Golf Course, but he's willing to have the city spend at least $12 million in the hopes that ir will operate in the black. Sure it will in another lifetime just like the Solamon Center operates without city financial backing! What king of bonehead do we have leading the City?

RJ Svengali said...

Been following this.
You all want to know what we think; admit it, you do.

We think it is a horrible idea; just a back door to get more devleopement on the bench.

Godfrey could care less about the playability or funding of golf courses, the hike'ability of east bench trails, or green space/land swap issues with Harrison High.

What he wants is to set the precedent of more east bench development, to counter the cresting tide of smartgrowthogden.

What, you thought Peterson and Company were just going to go away?

Its now their move; be vigilant.
Whatever they propose is a ruse and a diversion.

We love this town.

curious 1 said...

Time to bring out the Smart Growth Signs again before the next city election.

thegabber said...

curious 1 said...
Time to bring out the Smart Growth Signs again before the next city election.

I've never put mine away and many others are still out and you're right, it's time for SGO to get with the program!

Obviously, the plans - Options A, B, whatever are merely part of the grand vision of our esteemed Mayor. Delayed perhaps and modified to meet present needs but a link nontheless in the little man's chain of visionary projects.

Just say no to his honor is the answer of course and then perhaps a committee from the Council side of the ledger to come up with somthing realistic and sensible For example:(1)retire the course debt;(2)fix the water system and safety issues on the cart paths;(3)address the management issues;(4)set up a reasonable operating budget including funding for capital improvements (not condo sales); buy some new carts and set up a program to replace carts over time ;(5)take a hard look at course management and btw the operations side has done a terrific job under unreal conditions;(6)look at the needs for the clubhouse and program upgrades and possible expansion, in-place.

The financial problems at the golf course didn't happen overnight and there is no reason why they should be solved overnight. The Mayor could always siphon off a mil or two from his SalCent/BDO contingency fund if necessary. No doubt there are other considerations but this would be a good start.

thegabber again said...

Sorry, I forgot to ask - does anyone know how the Mayor is funding all of this proposal preparation?
It seems improbable that Garner is spending all the time and effort involved in advising the committee without some sort of compensation.

WhatWardRUin said...

In concept, I don't see much difference between this proposal of funding the "new and improved" golf course through the sale of upscale condos to the hair-brained schemes that Chris Peterson was pushing. The main difference is that the tax payers of Ogden are the ones footing the bill as the developer. Is this just Godfrey priming the pump for the Malans Basin development? While I am comfortable with the explanation from the City staff for the 46th to 36th water project shift, it still feels like Godfrey is steering the projects and he has a much more sinister motive for how and where work gets done. After viewing the golf course plans it is absolutely clear that the 36th Street water tank location is as much for his projects as it is for the east bench water pressure deficiencies.

dan s. said...

Quick additional tidbit: The "winter sports area" is supposed to include a half-pipe, possibly created by clearing and smoothing the creek bed in the lower portion of Strong's Canyon. That's ridiculous enough, but last night I heard a rumor that the mayor's High Adventure Committee is proposing to turn the same creek bed into a kayak park in the summer, pumping a bunch of extra water into it from the new nearby water tanks.

My impression is that all this is just brainstorming, rather than serious proposals. But it shows how some of these people think.

Curmudgeon said...

Dan:

Strong's Canyon Creek as a kayak stream?

What are these guys smoking?

Hell, why not high diving platforms attached to the side of the water tanks. The tank covers could be opened up in the summer. Put in a few bleacher seats too to accommodate the crowds coming up for the diving meets.

Strong's Canyon creek and kayaks? JHC....

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