Future of River Valley Ranch golf course still concern for community
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
The River Valley Ranch golf course has a new owner, but neighbors are still concerned about the future of the site.
The former owner, River Valley Ranch Golf LLC, managed by Dale Rands, bought the golf course for $1.2 million in 2012, according to county records. When Crystal Outdoors LLC bought the golf course Nov. 13, the value was recorded in county records as $3.5 million, more than double what was paid six years earlier.
However, the promissory note included in the documents shows that Crystal Outdoors only paid $1.7 million upfront, with the remainder covered by a loan from the seller, conditional to an appraisal of the property.
According to a loan agreement between RVR Golf LLC and Crystal Outdoors, the new owner does intend to seek development of portions of the property, which is a matter for concern to the neighborhood.
Rands sought for months to convince the town of Carbondale to rezone the driving range for high-density, multi-family housing. The golf course announced in July that it might have to close for good unless the neighborhood allowed rezoning for development or agreed to fees to keep the links open.
The golf course was simply not profitable for RVR Golf, and the homeowners association refused to pay fees to subsidize the resort.
RVR Golf also offered to sell the golf course to the HOA for $3.5 million, but the price was too high, said Gary Lesser, HOA board member and head of the homeowners’ Golf Advisory Committee.
“At the time, the board was in the very early stages of a due diligence process to try to understand the value of the course and what it would cost to operate it,” Lesser said. “We’ve since learned, through our due diligence, that as an operational golf course, its value to an investor is negligible.”
The agreement indicates that new owner Crystal Outdoors, managed by Dan and Wynee Coleman and backed by an unknown number of silent investors, seeks to pursue some sort of development on one parcel.
“Buyer intends to seek such approvals and entitlements as may be required in order to develop portions of the Golf Course Parcels within River Valley Ranch,” the November loan agreement states, adding that Rands’ company will be kept appraised of the effort.
The land can revert back to RVR Golf if the Crystal Outdoors is “unable to obtain acceptable development approvals,” and is also unable to pay back the remainder. The time period for repayment is not defined in the agreement.
For the RVR neighborhood, it’s critical that the golf course or whatever recreational use ends up on the site be self-sustaining, without subsidies from homeowners, Lesser said.
If the golf course disappears due to unprofitability, the concern is that real estate values will drop, he said.
An attorney for Coleman said the company wants to reopen the golf course next spring, but beyond that it’s unclear what development of the property means.
“The number one item on the agenda is to figure out if we can get the golf course open for next season,” attorney David Myler, who represents Crystal Outdoors and also assisted Rands in the sale of the golf course, said in a November interview.
Coleman and Myler did not return requests for additional comment by press time for this story.
Shortly before the purchase was finalized on Nov. 20, the Colemans, who own a house in RVR, visited the neighborhood’s golf committee to discuss their hopes for the future of the course and open space. They brought with them a one-page outline of their goals for the property.
“Our passion is to work together to create a wonderful plan that all RVR can enjoy,” the document indicated. “Together, we can shape a new vision for this special property that can make River Valley Ranch the most desirable place to live in Colorado.”
The memo includes a list of goals and aspirations including: “Define and create a blend of outdoor activities and amenities that appeal to all residents.” Other goals include upgrading the club’s Pan and Fork restaurant and keeping it open year-round, and building a flagship entrance near the driving parcel.
According to a survey the HOA released in August, more than 40 percent of respondents do not golf at the RVR course at all.
But that doesn’t mean the community wants to see the course disappear.
The HOA board commissioned a study on the economics of RVR, including the value of the golf course, how a golf course closure would affect property values, and whether it’s possible to operate the golf course profitably, Lesser said. The golf committee has reviewed initial drafts of the report, which will be released to the community when complete, he said.
The HOA also held two “fireside chats” Nov. 29 to listen the community’s wishes for the course, and will host more this month.
“It’s a good way for the board to listen to the community, hear their ideas, understand their passion for RVR, and address their questions,” Lesser said.
At the first round of chats, the homeowners were mostly opposed to development on the property, Lesser said, and reaffirmed the HOA’s commitment to finding sustainable uses for the property while maintaining home values and preserving the community’s character.
“We have more than 500 property owners at RVR, and in the end, whatever action we take will represent their will,” Lesser said.
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