Northern Colorado conservation groups have concerns about the proposed Topgolf facility in Timnath, and town officials have ignored offers from the Fort Collins Audubon Society and allied organizations to discuss potential impacts of the project on local bird populations.
“The attitude that we take is that it’s better to bring up concerns and issues as early as possible in the formal government process before too much time, energy and commitment is made based on a partial view of the issues and a partial view of the facts,” said John Shenot, president of the local Audubon Society chapter that covers Timnath and much of Northern Colorado.
Conservation groups became aware of Dallas-based Topgolf Entertainment Group’s plans to build its popular driving range and entertainment concept at the 240-acre Ladera development site near the intersection of Harmony Road and Interstate 25 in May. They hired engineering contractor EDM International Inc. this summer to draft a report outlining the potential avian impacts of the development.
“The project area is located in a wetland complex along the Cache la Poudre River,” the report said, which is home to “waterbird species like ducks, herons, geese and eagles.”
Construction on the site, particularly of a Topgolf facility that typically features fencing that towers more than 100 feet above the ground, “has the potential to impact bird species breeding, foraging and roosting in the surrounding area,” EDM engineers wrote.
Specific concerns cited by the conservation groups include:
- The transparent golf safety netting that “could impede the flights of birds — resulting in collision and mortality.”
- High-wattage spotlights. “Numerous studies — including leading edge research being conducted at Colorado State University — have proven that lights not only negatively impact birds during migration, but also can attract them thus causing them to collide with the illuminated buildings and other structures.”
- Noise. “In addition to disturbances from noise-generating construction operations, Topgolf facilities are known to incorporate live or recorded music that could impact the wildlife surrounding the area.”
The conservation groups, which include the Colorado Chapter of the International Dark-sky Association and the Colorado State University Field Ornithologists, sent the report and a letter to Timnath elected officials and staffers about six months ago. Their hope was to begin a dialog about the environmental and ecological impacts of the project early in the development process.
“We did get a response from a staff person in the town of Timnath government that explained the development review process and how to participate in that,” Shenot said. “But it didn’t acknowledge or respond to any of the specific concerns that we raised. Nor did it respond to our request for a conversation to discuss those issues.”
Months went by and the Audubon Society heard nothing more from Timnath. Last month, after additional conceptual details of Topgolf’s proposal began to trickle out, they sent another letter.
“[W]e write now in the hope that town officials will understand our concerns before any irreversible decisions are made,” the November letter said. “The conceptual plan raises very serious questions about how severe the avian impacts could be, and what the developer could do to avoid and mitigate those impacts in the design, construction, and operational phases of the facility. We believe that the outcome of the development review process will be improved for all parties if we raise those questions now, rather than waiting for an eventual public comment period.”
The conservation groups have received no response from Timnath officials to the November letter.
“We have a sense that town officials might be having lots of conversations with the developer or land owner about a proposal that might come in as an application,” Shenot said. “We were just concerned that those conversations might be avoiding or glossing over the issues that we’ve raised.”
BizWest emailed each member of the Timnath Town Council, as well as top staffers, seeking comment for this story. None replied.
Topgolf Entertainment Group builds large-scale, often multi-story driving ranges that allow golfers to play a variety of electronically scored games. The sites, which are popular for dates and company outings, also heavily feature food and beverage service. The company has Colorado locations in Thornton and Colorado Springs.
For about a year, city officials have communicated with representatives of Topgolf and Ladera developer Connell LLC.
Emails obtained by BizWest show that Timnath officials have floated the proposal of a generous tax- and fee-incentive package to lure the popular venue to town.
Late last year, town officials received a petition, which was ultimately approved, for the organization of a Business Improvement District at Ladera, where Connell LLC is the developer, that establishes two new metro districts on the site, Timnath documents show.
A conceptual site sketch shows plans for a roughly 38,000-square-foot facility on nearly 12 acres.The building would be 40 feet high with netting poles stretching 156 feet into the air.
The sketch also shows a roughly 15,000-square-foot mini-golf course adjacent to the presumed Topgolf building.
Timnath officials have thus far held no public hearings nor taken any votes on the proposed “golf entertainment center” project at Ladera.
This story first ran on BizWest.com, a BusinessDen news partner.