The changing spring climate is as uncertain for golf course plans as for golfers in Sandy these days.
In this South Valley suburb, which has one private course open to the public and two country club courses - but no publicly owned courses - plans are in the works to add links at three different locations.But as the weather warms and golfers prepare to hook and slice their summer away, those plans remain uncertain.
Two proposed public courses - South Point and Dimple Dell - must await federal decisions that could determine their future.
And the expansion of the privately owned Pebblebrook Golf Course, 8968 S. 1300 East, from nine holes to 18 is awaiting further court rulings or a settlement following a judge's partial ruling a week ago.
George Schneiter opened Pebblebrook in 1975 as a nine-hole course, with plans and the city's approval, he says, to expand it to 18 holes. But later, when he built the back nine, he and the city clashed over whether he needed a conditional use permit and, if so, what conditions the city could impose.
Schneiter took the city to court, and U.S. District Judge David Sam has now ruled partly in Schneiter's favor and partly for the city.
The judge said the city can require Schneiter to get a conditional use permit before opening his second nine holes, which were completed about a year and a half ago.
But the judge threw out two of the city's main permit requirements - that Schneiter donate land to widen 1300 East and extend Harvard Park Drive and that he pay for certain road improvements. Sam upheld some of the city's fencing and parking requirements.
Attorney Jody Burnett, who is representing Sandy in the case, said he's not sure what will happen to the remaining claims in the suit.
Schneiter's lawyer, Vincent Rampton, said he thinks those can be settled if the city will negotiate, but Sandy will have to compensate Schneiter.
Schneiter said he hopes Mayor Larry Smith will persuade the city to settle. He said he and other golfers backed Smith in November's election because Smith had promised to help get the rest of Pebblebrook open.
Smith told the Deseret News he promised only to try to resolve that suit and others against the city by being more reasonable than the previous administration.
South Point needs federal help
One thing Schneiter said the city could do would be to let him build, own and operate the 27-hole South Point golf course that Sandy and South Jordan are thinking about building west of I-15 between 9000 and 10600 South.
He said the cities shouldn't be in the golf course business - they don't have the expertise and he does.
Sandy and South Jordan hope the South Point course will trigger a new burst of business development between I-15 and the Jordan River. They're looking into issuing revenue bonds to build it and hope once it's finished that a private developer will acquire the adjacent land and build an industrial/business park (see accompanying map).
But Sandy Chamber of Commerce President Quentin Wells said the course won't be possible unless the cities can pick up the land free or at low cost.
Federal law requires wetlands along the river to be preserved, so the cities have arranged for a $2.3 million appropriation to be included in the Central Utah Project completion bill pending in Congress, Wells said. If that passes, it will cover the land costs for the wetlands and the golf course.
The Legislature has provided $240,000 for the detailed studies that must be done. Still, potential problems include the difficulty of acquiring 108 separate land parcels from 43 different owners.
South Point's impact?
One person hoping South Point will make it is John Shakula. The head of Citizens for the Preservation of Dimple Dell Park hopes a new 27-hole course west of the freeway will reduce the pressure to build an 18-hole course in the Dimple Dell Park natural area.
Although the same golf course architect-planning firm, A-E Intra Group, is working on both projects, Sandy's Mayor Smith said South Point and Dimple Dell are entirely separate and both could end up being built. "It's not an either-or."
Although Dimple Dell lies within Sandy City's boundaries, it is on an island of county property. Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation Director Glen Lu said there's enough golf demand to warrant building county courses in Dimple Dell, Riverton and the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Lu said the county is convinced that multiple use of the park, including a golf course, is best and that golf and other uses can co-exist with minimal environmental impact.
Could face delay
Shakula said the county's insistence on doing Dimple Dell first will actually delay construction of new courses, because his environmentalist group will tie up the project for years in court if necessary.
Because the county acquired part of Dimple Dell from the federal government for use as a natural area, the National Park Service must sign off on the proposed golf course use.
State officials who will make a recommendation to the Park Service on the change-of-use request have reviewed the county's environmental assessment and pointed out deficiencies ranging from insufficient public comment opportunities to inadequate plans for protecting archaeological sites. County officials have pledged to answer the state concerns.
Shakula said he was pleasantly surprised by the state's action. He said he thinks the tide is turning and people are beginning to take seriously the concerns his group has raised.