Court of Appeals finds in favor of town in Vail Golf and Nordic Clubhouse remodel case
The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the Town of Vail and the Vail Recreation District regarding a lawsuit challenging the Vail Golf and Nordic Clubhouse remodel project which broke ground on Sept. 8. The unanimous ruling released Thursday by the three judge panel upholds a lower court ruling issued by Eagle County District Court Judge Paul Dunkelman on March 13, 2014. The District Court ruling had been appealed by the plaintiffs in the case.
The lawsuit was filed in 2012 by eight neighborhood property owners seeking a declaratory judgment from the court on four separate grounds: 1) that an existing restrictive covenant (the Pulis Covenant) prohibits the renovation; 2) that the town’s Real Estate Transfer Tax funds can not be used for the clubhouse renovation; 3) that the use of certain funds for the renovation violated the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR) provision of the Colorado Constitution; and 4) that the proposed renovation is not consistent with what the Vail voters approved in 2011.
Writing the opinion on behalf of the Colorado Court of Appeals in this latest decision, Judge Diana Terry found in favor of the Town of Vail and the Vail Recreation District on all claims. Specifically, the court reaffirmed Judge Dunkelman’s conclusion that the renovation complies with the language of the Pulis Covenant, which was placed on the golf course property when the land was transferred to the town in 1984.
The appeals court also agreed that the town’s Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) funds may be used for constructing buildings that are incidental to the golf course, such as the clubhouse.
Lastly, the court upheld Judge Dunkelman’s ruling that there was no violation of the Colorado Constitution and that was also no departure from the voters’ approval of the ballot issue in November 2011 to use the funds for expansion of the clubhouse. In other words, the town’s planned renovation of the clubhouse is entirely consistent with the ballot language, which stated “expansion and improvement of the clubhouse at the Vail Golf Course and Nordic Center, including multi-use community space.”
The Town of Vail was represented by Town Attorney Matt Mire and Kendra Carberry of Hoffmann Parker, Wilson & Carberry, P.C., while the Vail Recreation District was represented by Patrick Wilson of the same law firm.
This week’s judgment is the last of a series of court proceedings involving the project as well as activities related to the golf course. Previous efforts have included a motion for a preliminary inunction to stop the town’s authority to relocate the 18th hole at the golf course, which was denied, plus various procedural challenges in the town’s development review of the clubhouse renovation.
Vail Mayor Andy Daly says he’s pleased with the ruling in that it validates the town’s decision-making process and reinforces the Town Council’s position that the clubhouse remodel is in the best interest of the community. “From the outset of this project, we carefully considered the land use covenant on the property to make sure the clubhouse remodel was in accordance with the covenant,” said Daly. “The ruling means the town has been well within its authority to remodel the clubhouse and the court has also acknowledged the same. I’m pleased the Town Council had the fortitude to keep the greater community’s interest at the forefront of this project so we could appropriately transform the building to meet the needs of current and future users in a way that will make us all proud by this time next year.”
Prior approvals by the Planning and Environmental Commission include an amendment to a Conditional Use Permit and a Management and Operations plan for the facility agreed upon by the Town of Vail and the Vail Recreation District. The town owns the golf course property and leases the building and grounds to the Vail Recreation District.