As City Manager Kevin Phelps sees it, the process of selling Glen Lakes Golf Course is a straight shot to the hole: Take a failing golf business “the city never should have been involved in” and sell it to a developer for a cool $6.5 million.
All that’s left, in his mind, is an easy putt for Glendale City Council to approve a general plan amendment and rezoning request that would seal the deal.
But Save Glen Lakes, a group that has been fighting the sale for nearly a year, sees Phelps’ game as a twisting, dogleg course of action that is dodging neighbors’ cries to keep 40 acres of green space.
“The city has refused to listen to the community since day one,” said Kathy Wheeler. (See Page 5 for more comments from Save Glen Lakes.)
Phelps counters that the plan to turn a financially porous golf course into 173 high-end homes was public and transparent.
Sticking with the golf analogy, Phelps has moved the process along like a pro golfer on a par-5 hole. First, he teed off by leading city council to approve marketing the golf course for sale more than a year ago. Phelps stayed on the green, negotiating a deal with Towne Development, which agreed to purchase the city-owned golf course.
Then, as Phelps pitched to the putting green—the Glendale Planning Commission cried “out of bounds.”
In a stunning rebuke, the commission unanimously rejected a request for rezoning and a plan amendment. Both are needed before Towne Development closes on the deal.
Planning Commission Chairman Gary Hirsch emphatically noted his opinion before voting: “I just cannot support this application in any way.”
Other commissioners added harsh comments.
Though its recommendation is to be considered, the commission does not have power to reject or authorize development of the golf course.
Glendale City Council has the final say on the amendment and rezoning, both to be presented by Phelps at a Tuesday, Oct. 13, meeting.
Phelps said no major changes have been made to the plan that was rejected by the Planning Commission Aug. 21.
“There are no substantive changes at all,” Phelps said. “The amount of land, the number of homes and the site plan are exactly the same as what was presented last year.”
How did Phelps feel about the stinging rebuttal?
“I felt the Planning Commission looked at things outside of the scope of what a planning commission should be doing,” Phelps said. “They questioned whether a city should have a golf course or not. ... They questioned how much the city sold the land for.
“None of those things have a direct impact on what a planning commission does, which is to look at a general plan and how we use it—if (a project) looks appropriate. ...
“My personal opinion is they got outside of their lane,” Phelps continued. “But they’re entitled to take whatever action they wanted to take.
“I feel council will be very thoughtful and take appropriate action.”
What about the protests of many residents in the area of Northern and 55th avenues, where the golf course has been for a half-century?
“I respect their position that they would have preferred the city to keep the golf course open. That’s certainly their right. But I think they’ve used a lot of misinformation to try to drive that point home,” Phelps said.
“They’ve made claims that they haven’t been part of the design process for the park—that’s factually incorrect.”
Phelps feels neighbors should be enthusiastic about the design plan to build Trevino Homes and a surrounding park.
“I certainly appreciate their concern,” Phelps said. “Their concerns are to a large degree the unknown—what will be the impact be to the neighborhood? What will the park look like? I understand they don’t have assurances to what this will look like.”
Phelps said neighbors should focus on the 10-acre park Towne Development/Homes by Towne will build surrounding the gated homes.
And, Phelps said, those 173 homes to be built will be “high-end” residences he expects will sell for $300,000-plus.
“At the end of the day, this will become a neighborhood that is highly attractive when people are looking to purchase a home or move to the neighborhood,” Phelps said.
“The pressure will be on the city to do this project right—to build a better community than what we started with.”
Phelps is confident the city picked the right partner.
“The people developing this, Homes by Towne, are going to take extra effort to really do a strong project. Their brand is known for quality development; they do the right thing,” Phelps said. “They’re going to create a really nice residential development.”
Noting the sale can be used to help fix parks around the city, Phelps summarized his argument: “The $6.5 million (will go) back into the capital improvement program. There will be a huge amount of construction sales tax. When you build 173 homes at an average price of $300,000, two-thirds of that (sales) money taxable. ... We will have 173 homes that will have purchased property that have median household value significantly above the rest of the area. And when you have significantly higher household revenue, they tend to spend more money closely located near their homes. Stores and restaurants in the immediate area will benefit from new (residents) that will have almost double the amount of expendable income from rest of the neighborhood.”
Though he sounded confident that Glendale City Council will sink the putt he has set up, “If they go a different direction—if they want to reopen the golf course, we’ll pivot and do that,” Phelps said.