TIMNATH – Observing that there’s “more likelihood Topgolf won’t come in than it will,” Timnath mayor Mark Soukup joined other town officials in addressing citizen questions Thursday night about issues surrounding the growing town including Dallas-based Topgolf Entertainment Group’s plans to build a driving range and entertainment concept at the 240-acre Ladera development site near the intersection of Harmony Road and Interstate 25.
The answers to submitted questions followed a “State of the Town” presentation in which Soukup noted that Timnath has a $10.3 million surplus, $4.2 million in reserves and has had no property tax increase in 15 years.
Prompted by a “site plan for conceptual review” for the Topgolf facility that shows plans for a roughly 38,000-square-foot facility on nearly 12 acres including a 40-foot-high building and netting poles 156 feet high, many nearby residents aired concerns about traffic, lights and music, but especially about the nets and poles and their impact on views from their homes — and the possible danger they posed to eagles and other flying fowl.
A group called Guide Our Growth Timnath was formed and launched a petition drive that would amend the town charter to put proposals for structures more than 60 feet high to a public vote instead of having them decided by the town’s elected officials. However, the Timnath Town Council, contending the measure would usurp the authority of its planning process and elected officials, unanimously passed a resolution opposing the amendment on Jan. 24. Guide Our Growth Timnath responded by withdrawing its petition and narrowing its proposal into a simple ballot issue stating that no fencing poles or material of any kind exceed 65 feet.
This time, council member Robert Axmacher said, “there’s nothing the town would do to stop it from getting on the ballot. With the initial measure, the town had some concerns with the long-term impact of if we changed our code in that way. What legal exposure would it subject the town to? A lot of those concerns are not present with the current one. It’s more issue specific.”
Still, Soukup pointed out, “it’s a fine line that we have to walk” when it comes to private property.
“A person who owns a piece of property has a right to build it within certain conditions,” he said. “You don’t have a right to tell your next-door neighbor he can’t build two stories on his house because it’s going to block your view of the tree that’s down the street. You can’t do that. That’s his property. And so when you extrapolate that out to other issues, that’s one of the issues that we come into play with because how do we make sure we don’t run afoul of property rights?
“They can sue us. If we take away someone’s property rights, they can sue the town, saying we did, and get a recovery of the cost of that property right they felt we took from them.”
If the Guide Our Growth Timnath petition drive gets sufficient signatures, is placed on the town’s ballot and is approved, Topgolf could scrap its Timnath plans and choose another site it had considered. Then, noted Mayor Pro Tem Brett Hansen, “in our comprehensive plan, that land is regional commercial, so whatever goes there will be something that will be a regional draw.“
Soukup acknowledged that “15 months ago Topgolf came to the town and said we want to put in a Topgolf facility,” and that his December 2021 “totally nonbinding letter” to Topgolf officials suggested that “we might do these incentives” to attract the facility, but added that “after that, I have not talked to either the developer or Topgolf.
“We are not dealing with Topgolf at all. We’re dealing with Ladera,” he said. If the annexation Ladera requested in January is approved, he said, then the town would be talking with Topgolf – but as Public Works Director Don Taranto pointed out, the project would go through the planning and zoning process and “then come to council for public debate and discussion.”
On the “Projects Under Review” page on the town’s website, he said, “you’ll see all the stuff Ladera has come up with. In there is a list of requests that the developer wants – 127 of them. You shoot for the moon and hope you get the ground. No way all those 127 will be approved.”
Answering concerns about traffic the entire development would generate, Hansen differentiated between “bad traffic design” as in the Walmart parking lot and “busy traffic design” as in Costco.
The town learned some hard lessons between the Walmart and Costco projects, he said, and Taranto acknowledged that they had had a “very difficult time getting a positive response” from Walmart – but that now, “they’ve changed their tune. They’ve become very receptive to changes, and I’m very optimistic about them coming to the table with some options that would work.”
Asked about the prospects of luring a supermarket to Timnath, Axmacher said “we can’t conjure a grocery store out of thin air,” but “if somebody comes to us with proposals, we want to welcome them with open arms. We can’t just make it happen.”
One questioner was concerned about the appearance of a conflict of interest between the town and Fort Collins-based TST Consulting Engineers, given that Taranto, senior town planner Kevin Koelbel and several other Timnath officials are employed by TST but hold their town positions on a contract basis.
“When we first started working here,” Taranto said, it was decided that “we would not be doing work for any private-sector clients within the town of Timnath. That policy is still in place.”
Soukup added that “Don and his company gave up a significant amount of fee income” to avoid the appearance of conflict. “He took the high road of ethics.”
Even so, Axmacher said, “as we grow, it makes sense to have more of these jobs in house” instead of contracting them out.