Canyons could break ground on golf course this spring
A strong real estate market and cooperation among a complex group of landowners could allow developers at The Canyons to break ground this spring on a long-awaited golf course at the resort.
Building the course is important as The Canyons is marketed more aggressively as a year-round vacation spot, said Canyons vice president Tim Vetter.
But it hasn’t been easy, he added.
In 1999, several landowners at the resort entered into a development agreement with Summit County called a specially planned area or SPA. The complex land-use scheme required concessions from each landowner as an 18-hole golf course was designed near the base of the ski resort. Slated in the SPA are roughly 8.5 million square-feet of development. "Everybody has to give up land for the golf course as part of their obligation to get the entitlements," Vetter said. In exchange, property owners like the Osguthorpe family, Intermountain Health Care and American Skiing Company, parent company to The Canyons, were guaranteed development rights like height, use and density. "A lot of people’s entitlements are predicated on being golf course frontage property," Vetter said. "If you don’t have a ski-in, ski-out property, it’s pretty critical to you that you have a golf course going in."
Stakeholders in the resort recently approached the Summit County Commission with a plan to approve master plats in the SPA’s Lower Village, and West Willow Draw, East Willow Draw and Frostwood areas. Commissioners could decide Wednesday on amendments to the development agreement that Vetter claims could allow a course to be constructed within the next two years. "We’ve never been to this point in the past where everything was lined up," Vetter said. Economic factors like 9/11, financial troubles at American Skiing and bickering among the SPA’s landowners has set completion of the course back several years, he said, adding that the county could end the squabbling by approving the plats to create the land for golf.
"The goal of this is to get everybody the entitlements that they had," Vetter said, adding that nearly 20 property owners are involved in the transactions. The roughly $12-million course will be situated west of S.R. 224 from near The Canyons cabriolet to the Flight of the Canyons gondola.
"The first hole starts right below the [gondola]," Vetter said, about the par 72 course. "You’ve got golf course holes on the ski runs."
The course is public, however, those staying at the resort will have first pick of tee times.
"There will always be public times set aside," Vetter said.
Designers have revamped the course to begin in the resort’s core near The Forum, he added.
"The Grand Summit Hotel retail space will house the pro shop," Vetter said, adding that a driving range is slated near the Flight of the Canyons. "That will have a first-class feel to it."
Zions Bank loaned the resort nearly half of the money to finance the course. Much of the rest of the costs could come from American Skiing and fees generated by real estate sales, he said, adding that The Canyons Golf Club LLC will operate the course.
"Zions really stepped up locally to say, ‘we believe in this project and we’re going to help make it happen,’" Vetter said.
But Maryland resident Mark Gross says he has watched as The Canyons has missed deadlines for completion of the course. "I think the property values over there are depressed because nobody knows what the deal is with the American Skiing Company," Gross said. "You can’t sell all this property and promise these amenities and never build these amenities."
So far, financial instability at The Canyons has deterred Gross from purchasing real estate at the resort, he added. "Golf is really important to me so if they’re going to do something over there I might be willing to deal with the traffic jams up and down the highway," Gross said. "My understanding is that come hell or high water that golf course will eventually happen. But is it going to happen in a year, or two years, or five years or 10 years?"
Vetter is counting on an approval from the County Commission on Wednesday to move the project forward.
"Nobody wants to give up their rights without knowing that that’s actually going to happen," he said about stakeholders in the SPA. "What we’re planning to do is start construction on the golf course in the spring."
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