County’s Planning Process Is Broken For Golf Course And Other Projects

Los Alamos

I remain disappointed by the county’s golf course planning process. It has been needlessly divisive, causing conflict between user communities that are very open to compromise.

No user community wants a fancy destination golf course, nor a fancy driving range, nor an extensive rebuild. The golf community’s priorities, from talking with them, are resolving deferred maintenance, mitigating the safety issues that are real, and minimizing downtime due to construction. The conservation community’s priority is to minimize (preferably eliminate) open space impact.

Instead, un-elected county staff and their expensive consultants gave us four options that respect neither group’s priorities and ignore clearly stated, voluminous feedback. The reason golfers have supported Option A in the past is that it was the only presented option that did not involve a major rebuild of the golf course, i.e., it was the only option within the county’s flawed process that met their needs. Because Option A is the highest impact for open space, it will set off a needless fight if selected, and golfers might not get anything at all.

Golfers themselves have proposed an “Option E” remodel that meets their actual goals, is considerably less expensive, and has much reduced impact on the forest to the south and east of the golf course. Conservationists have proposed an “Option F” that does not expand the course at all. There are also options that address safety concerns without any course remodeling, such as limited flight balls and administrative controls on club selection. County staff and the consultants are considering Option E only under duress (and with $16K more of your money) and no-expansion options not at all. From yet another meeting at the golf course last week ($6K of your money), I don’t see any reason to believe Option E is getting a fair shake.

Finally, the planning process lacks necessary expertise. The consultants hired by the county are purely golf course architects and know little about conservation or ecology; for example, the consultant who visited on September 29 thought moving trails was free and could be done by any contractor. On November 17 the visiting contractor told citizens he does not know how to design to multiple conflicting priorities. Why on earth would the county hire a contractor without this expertise for any public project?

I would like county leadership, including staff, to actually listen to local user communities in an honest and serious manner, respect their needs and opinions, and spend public money on the community’s priorities, not their own. As other recent letter writers have pointed out, this problem is not limited to the golf course.