Monday, May 7, 2012
Residents of Chase Oaks in Plano contest lengthening of golf course
Allen officials say they're sensitive to residents' concerns, but want to make sure this renovation is built to last.
A Plano homeowners association whose members rallied to convince the city of Plano to construct a walking trail in front of their homes instead of through the Chase Oaks Golf Course earlier this year is now contesting the addition of two new tee boxes that could put several homes at risk of being hit.
In letters addressed to the city of Allen's parks department, residents of the Chase Oaks subdivision said they are worried that the extension of the course's old No. 17 hole (which, after the renovations, will be hole No. 8), would put six homes at risk of being hit by errant golf balls for the very first time. Sixteen additional homes would be exposed to golf balls from different directions than they have in the past, the letters read.
Chase Oaks HOA President Eric Chamberlain met with representatives from the Allen parks department and the project's design firm on April 25, representing 11 homeowners who had written the city to express their concerns.
"We had a very nice and back-and-forth. They had their views and I had mine," Chamberlain said about the April 25 meeting. "The only thing they could tell me is that they needed the new tees because they are trying to make more money on the golf course via the new tees. One of the magic terms in running a golf course is, 'make it as long as possible.'"
Chase Oaks Golf Course was built in 1986 at 6,773 yards. The course was closed last October and is currently undergoing a $7 million, 12-month-long renovation that will see 27 holes modified and is expected to wrap up by the end of July, standing at a little more than 7,000 yards.
The firm handling the renovations is Plano-based Wiebring-Wolford Golf Design, Inc., the same group responsible for last year's renovation of Pecan Hollow Golf Course in Plano.
The firm, along with the City of Allen representatives, has met with focus groups, both golf and non-golf related, numerous times during the planning phase of this project, Steve Wolford said. Wolford said he and his design team have discussed specifics of the redesign with golf-bordering homeowners in person during visits to the site in order to uphold both the aesthetics and safety of the new golf course.
"We have focused on communicating this in every way we can during planning and now during construction," Wolford said in an email to the Star Courier on Thursday. "The implementation of the design has not varied from the original master plan in regards to Hole No. 8. We have just recently received and are addressing concerns from six homeowners regarding their belief that more golf shots will enter their property than before the redesign. Of course, this is not the intent and we will explore every option to resolve to the satisfaction of all."
Phil Abel lives on Sunkist Lane and is one of the six homeowners who feel their house will, for the first time, be exposed to errant golf balls. The two new tee boxes, which are located about 75 yards behind the old ones, are positioned so that houses that were previously not in danger of being hit are now potentially in the line of fire, Abel said.
"We built this house 19 years ago. The lot was selected because it was virtually impossible to hit a ball in our yard from the tee box," said Abel in an email to the Star Courier on Thursday. "If the city was really concerned about homeowner safety on this dangerous hole, they would convert it into a par 3. This would resolve safety issues for about 90 percent of the families that live along this hole."
Staff members with the Allen parks department have been working with the design firm to see what their options are in terms of the HOA's request, said Allen Parks and Recreation Director Tim Dentler. He added that while certain changes have already been made to address various concerns from neighboring residents, the city also has to make sure this once-in-a-lifetime renovation is built to last.
Designers have made adjustments such as widening fairways and strategically angling tee boxes to help keep the houses out of harm's way as much as possible, he said. The golf course was there before most of these homes were built and, unfortunately, now these homes are located perhaps closer to the green than they were at the time they were built, Dentler said.
"Obviously they prefer to eliminate certain tee boxes, but this is part of a master plan that has been in place for over two years," he said. "We want to be good neighbors, but we also have to maintain and make sure that the final product is going to be beneficial for the player, the community and the viability of the course. All along, we have made safety a high priority in everything we do. Everything we look at, everything we have changed on the course to date we have done to address the concerns that residents have had. Unfortunately, it's a golf course, and it is what it is."
On Thursday, Chamberlain said the Chase Oaks HOA was scheduled to meet today, during which time members would draft a petition to the city of Allen stating it no longer supports the removal of the tee boxes and now wants the par 4 hole shortened from 485 yards to a par 3 hole at 220 yards. The association also plans on reaching out to Plano Mayor Phil Dyer in order to seek his support and council.
"By doing this, 95 percent of the homeowners would be absolutely safe," Chamberlain said. "It would also allow those homeowners with nets to take them down because their homes would no longer be in danger."
Chamberlain said while trees may provide a buffer zone in the 70-80 yards that stands between the tee boxes and the homes, they won't be beneficial until they are fully grown several years down the road.
"The course is going to be a fabulous, the play is going to double," Chamberlain said. "Allen is very good to work with and has made some real changes to the course for the safety of homeowners. This is not one of them. Statistically speaking, balls are going to be flying everywhere, but this is the biggest fly in punchbowl by far."
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