Group employs a diplomatic approach to development

February 24, 2008
An outcry arose when the Gleneagle Golf Club announced plans to build townhomes on its driving range to raise $1.5 million for a new irrigation system.
At public meetings this winter, residents of the area north of Colorado Springs have thrashed Gleneagle management for suggesting carving up the range for more houses. “Some days I feel like public enemy No. 1,” said Jon Brockman, general manager of the club. “What people don’t realize is that watering grass is at the crux of staying alive as a business.” Without it, he says, Gleneagle — opened in 1972 as an exclusive private club/community — may end up just another neighborhood, its 103 acres of fairways and greens converted to streets and rooftops. As the debate raged, folks in Eagle Villas mostly bit their tongues. Some might have expected them to be the most vocal, since they would be hurt worst by plans to turn the 11-acre driving range into 47 townhomes. Their homes surround the range and enjoy unobstructed mountain views. Their views - and property values - might suffer from Gleneagle’s project. But they resisted “fighting” it. Don’t misunderstand. They hate the idea. They vigorously oppose it and are working hard to make sure it never happens. But rather than fight, they are trying to persuade Gleneagle not to build. “It would be easy to get irritated about it,” said Doug Jenkins of Eagle Villas. “We decided to try and work with them.” So while other golf club neighbors rail, Jenkins and his neighbors talk and exchange ideas with management. One idea that emerged during public meetings and talks was a suggestion Gleneagle offer special memberships. For a one-time fee of $7,500, “eagle members” would get several perks, including lower monthly dues of $200 instead of $300. Besides raising cash, the plan would be a step toward returning Gleneagle to a private club, Brockman said. Gleneagle hasn’t dropped plans to ask El Paso County to rezone the range for homes. But if the memberships sell out, the driving range will stay. Gleneagle needs to sell 200 memberships to raise the $1.5 million it needs. Only two have been sold since they went on sale Jan. 1, Brockman said. “It’s a tough time to sell golf course memberships,” Brockman said. “We’ll see what happens in the spring when people are thinking about golfing.” He said if neighbors don’t step up and buy, he’ll have no choice but to proceed. But, Jenkins said, at least there’s hope. Besides coming up with the membership idea, residents persuaded Gleneagle to slash the density of its plan, another of Eagle Villas’ goals. The new plan (posted on my Side Streets blog at calls for far fewer townhomes spread out on double the original acreage. “We’re trying to work with the golf course in as civil a manner as possible to get things done,” said Alice Sweatman, a real estate agent who lives in Eagle Villas. The coming months will tell whether Eagle Villas’ approach saves the driving range. But Jenkins is proud, either way. “I think our approach resulted in better communication,” he said. “We got more information and maybe had a little more input in the process.”
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