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Westminster council hears proposal for Wakefield Valley

The future of the former Wakefield Valley Golf Club may be beginning to take shape as the Westminster City Council heard a draft concept proposal for the more than 180-acre site off Bell Road on Monday night.

The proposal, brought to the council and mayor by Pinkard Properties, would involve several sports fields, indoor athletic space, educational space and gardens.

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The City of Westminster controls the property and the site is currently used as a park with 4.5 miles of trails and 11 ponds — formerly used as water hazards — now home to wildlife.

The property includes three structures: the fenced-off Durbin House, the old clubhouse and a facility for storage.

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In 2014, the city reached an agreement to take over maintenance of the property, which the city has said for years it wants to see developed into a community resource.

The Westminster Mayor and Council is expected to hear a proposal for the former Wakefield Valley Golf Course next Monday at a workgroup session.

The Wakefield Valley Task Force, which was created to help formulate a plan for the site, heard five proposals for the property before cutting the list to three. The task force then asked those three developers to work together on a single proposal.

Athan Sunderland, executive vice president at Pinkard Properties, provided the council and about 100 community members who gathered at the Westminster fire hall for the meeting with a look at what Pinkard envisions for the site.

Sports fields, Sunderland said, would be the backbone of the project, along with indoor recreation facilities and trails.

The site could also be home to an amphitheater, an educational center, a skate rink and a cable park — a water sports facility that Sunderland said would take advantage of some of the property's lower lying areas.

Silver Linings Lavender, run by 2013 Carroll Biz Challenge Winner Dawn Pritchard, would also maintain a lavender field and several gardens.

Other amenities, such as lighting and parking, would also be necessitated to operate the park, Sutherland said.

While much of the future of building space on the site would be determined in a design phase, Sunderland said there is an expectation that the historical building would be restored and the existing clubhouse would get a new roof. A utility shed on the site, he said, may have to come down. The only new buildings being considered for now, he said, would be the indoor facility space, which would mirror the size and shape of the clubhouse, and a new maintenance facility shed that could be built into the side of a hill with a living roof on top.

The project, Sunderland said, is expected to cost about $15-20 million for the initial phase of work, which is the only phase currently proposed. The money, he said will be sought from investors, meaning there will be no financial liability to the city, Sunderland said. If the development fails, he said, the city would not have to repay investors; it will only have to maintain the facility.

The fees, he said, would be in line with costs to rent other municipal facilities or lower. Instead, he said, things like food and beverage sales would help to fund the park.

"We're not going to build this on the backs of moms and dads," Sunderland said, noting that one of the group's priorities is to provide kids in the area with better access to sports facilities.

Although some community members said they would appreciate access to more sports amenities, many meeting attendees expressed reservations about the plan.

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From traffic concerns to parking and lights, speakers who said they lived near the site said they worried about the effect the park could have on their lives and property.

Several meeting attendees also questioned the logistics of the cable park.

Sunderland said the facility would not resemble an amusement park, like some fear. But if the community opposes the idea, Pinkard can reconsider, he said.

"If it is such a thing where the community is not going to support us, we just don't do it. That's OK," he said.

"It's a process," he told the group. "If we don't have community support, we don't have a project."

In the end, Sunderland told the group, the proposal is far from final.

"Quite frankly these are some things that allow us to start a conversation," he said.

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