Committee endorses golf course zoning change

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Darwin Bailey of Clovis addresses the planning and zoning committee during its meeting Wednesday afternoon at city hall. The committee approved a zoning change that would allow for alcohol sales to continue at the Colonial Park Golf Course when it is purchased by the city.

Kevin Wilson

A recommendation to change zoning of the Colonial Park Golf Course will go to the Clovis City Commission with a unanimous endorsement from the Planning and Zoning Committee.

The move, which is in essence a continuation of alcohol sales at the course after the city purchases it, was approved Wednesday on a 5-0 vote following roughly 90 minutes of discussion from residents who lived around the golf course and throughout Clovis.

The city is currently operating the course, with a $2.81 million purchase waiting on the city’s ability to draw parks and recreation bond money later this month.

In line with the city’s parks and recreation master plan, the nine-hole Clovis Municipal Golf Course would be shut down after August and converted into open park space and youth recreation fields. The 18-hole Colonial Park course would become the city’s official course.

During the course’s time as a country club, alcohol sales were allowed under a variance.

Richards noted the sale of the golf course was a unanimous city commission vote, and that the commission also approved acquisition of a governmental liquor license for the course following the purchase.

Regarding concerns on property taxes, he said he spoke with the county assessor’s office and said there was no distinction between property near a privately-owned golf course and property near a public golf course.

“It’s still going to be a property that’s adjacent to a golf course,” Richards said. He added that while he surmised that nobody could predict the housing market, improvements the city makes to the course would only improve property value.

Darwin Bailey, who has lived by the 16th tee box for 21 years, said with every ownership change, the general impression was, “Well, good,” as a vote of disapproval to previous ownership. He said “the city’s not going away,” and management would be stable. He considered the zoning change a natural part of the city taking ownership.

“It’s in our best interests,” Bailey said, “as a citizen and as a property owner, to say yes.”

Carol Bare said the use of a governmental license creates an unfair advantage against private businesses that have to purchase their own liquor license.

She said that public ownership of the course means alcohol service would be available to any adult, as opposed to the previous limitation to country club members or small groups that reserved a banquet room.

“It was a small, private club,” Bare said. “It didn’t get into our neighborhoods.”

Sherri Brewer said her grandson learned how to golf on the Clovis Municipal Course, and she had concerns about alcohol sales on what would be the city’s next municipal course because she has younger grandchildren now learning the game.

Committee member Juan Garza, also a city commissioner, said the country club had kids golfing all the time and has hosted high school tournaments without incident. He added that it shouldn’t be assumed that voting down the zoning change would stop alcohol use, because people have sneaked beer onto the municipal course in the past.

During the discussion, the vote did change for Jody Crampo, who lives by the 18-hole course.

“I came here 100 percent expecting to object to this,” Crampo said. “It’s progression. It’s the city growing.”

Crampo said alcohol is sold at the majority of golf courses around the country, and the sales help fund improvements of the course — which, in Clovis’ case, would mean higher property values around the course. She saw no distinction between alcohol being served at a golf course and at a restaurant, and that the more golfers the course attracts, the more patrons can act as a second form of rule enforcement.

Carolyn Spence said she was not so much concerned about the sale or consumption of alcohol, but that the city may be named as a defendant in lawsuits stemming from incidents — like a cart driver running over a child, or a drunk driver leaving the course and getting into a car accident.

The city commission can discuss the zoning change as early as its next meeting July 21.

The zoning change is an ordinance, but is not one that changes city policy. If it is approved by the commission, it cannot be undone by a referendum election.