by Carol Dunn
LA VETA- Locals were full of questions this week after the announcement that the Grandote Peaks Golf Club was closing down. “I’m really, really sorry to hear this, and I hope Dr. Briggs changes his mind by the next season,” said Larry Klinke, a part-time employee. “I hope the community realizes what a real loss this is going to be, here and even up in Cuchara.” Klinke and 32 other seasonal/part-time employees were laid off, and Wayne Smith will be kept on through the winter as a part-time caretaker. Kelly Popejoy, Grandote administrator, said she is volunteering her time through December to close out the year.
The past two years have been difficult for area golf courses, with $4 a gallon gas curtailing tourist traffic, then the economic downturn following on the heels of drought and other weather complications. Some area courses have lowered their rates, however Grandote doubled its local membership fees in 2009. “The Town did not put him in the predicament that he’s in,” Town Trustee Dale Davis said. According to Davis, the Town does not receive any tax revenue from actual golf course business transactions because the clubhouse and 2/3 of the property are located outside Town limits, in Huerfano County.
Grandote owner Dr. Charles R. “Randy” Briggs, president and CEO of HomeLoan USA Corp, told the Journal that three things are affecting the business. “There’s the political climate,” he said. “And the attitude of the entire County needs to be that we need them and they need us.” Briggs and Popejoy both estimated the golf course affects 20% of the County’s economy. Briggs said the final adversity is the current economy. “We need to increase the size of our business by 30%.” Without annexation, he said, getting the required appraisals for mortgage/ business loans is nearly impossible.
Although the streets are now owned and maintained by the Town, the Town Board voted not to annex the development, 83 existing lots with Town water and sewer that are not built out. Regarding the litigation with the Town, Briggs said that will continue while Grandote is closed down. “It is conceivable that this could take several years,” he said. “Grandote wants to be partners with the Town of La Veta in every sense of the word.”
Mayor Mickey Schmidt said, “Whether it [Grandote] survives or doesn’t is beyond our scope to affect that outcome one way or another.”
Trustee Tracy Webb told the Journal, “I feel the Board tried to deal with Dr. Briggs in a reasonable way. I’m sorry that the result of all that has gone on is that the golf course has closed.” Webb said, “I enjoy the course, and the course is important for our community.” She added, “Dr. Briggs has the right to develop his real estate around there, but he has to do it according to the rules and regulations.”