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Promontory gets approval for a new golf course despite county, resident drought concerns

Ben Lasseter
The Promontory gated community has received a permit to add a third golf course.

The Promontory gated community is set to add a third golf course. Summit County officials said the approval was mandated by a decades-old agreement but asked the developers to conserve water as much as possible.

Tee-times can be hard to get in Promontory, and the developer is requesting a permit to build another golf course on the property.

Promontory Director of Development Matthew Idema said there are two full-length, 18-hole, championship-level golf courses in Promontory now. The development agreement — which dates back to 2001 — allows four courses, with a possibility for a fifth.

Idema said Promontory members are saying now is the time to add another golf course.

“There's been a lot of comment back from our members about the need for a third golf course so that it can relieve some of the burden on the tee times that are stacking up,” Idema said. “We get residents who are upset because they're not being allowed to schedule tee times that they would like. And they end up being pushed to another day or another time, and it gets frustrating.”

For some Eastern Summit County Planning Commissioners and members of the public, now is not the time to be adding another golf course, considering the local, statewide and regional drought.

The planning commission last week unanimously forwarded a positive recommendation to the community development director to approve the low-impact permit necessary for the new par 3 golf course.

Commission Chair Rich Sonntag recused himself, as he regularly does for Promontory-related matters. Sonntag is a former Promontory managing director.

In a public hearing before the vote, Oakley resident Jan Perkins asked commissioners and the developer why the community needs another golf course.

“My concern is, of course, water,” Perkins said. “So why now in the middle of a drought in the second-driest state in the country? And our Rockport Reservoir is a pond. The timing seemed a little off, to put it mildly.”

Another commenter, James Murray, echoed Perkins’ drought-related concerns.

“I just find it a bit, kind of, arrogant and insensitive to the rest of the community that this developer wants to make another golf course for his residents, when we could be looking at impending water restrictions throughout the state,” Murray said.

Idema and other Promontory officials agreed that drought is a major concern. They said the par 3 course is significantly smaller than the full-length courses — about 30 acres of turf compared to 110 acres. And they plan to install smart meters on irrigation equipment, among other conservation efforts, to measure soil moisture and change watering accordingly

“We are starting to take measures to be very conscious of the fact that we are in a low-water-use environment,” Idema said. “We are looking to do things like specifying drought-tolerant seed mix and drought-tolerant plantings so that they need less water. And we're using drip lines so that the water that we do need is measured and reserved for those intended uses.”

Multiple commissioners said they had little leeway to reject the application, noting it was allowed under the original development agreement.

Promontory General Manager Kelli Brown said the club capped full membership at both of its existing courses at 395. There are fewer than 100 full memberships left of the original 790, Brown said, and with 700 unbuilt lots, another course is needed to serve current and future members.

Commissioner Tom Clyde included as a condition of approval that Promontory use the conservation efforts its officials described in the meeting, including the smart sensors.

“If we were looking at it as a clean slate, if they were coming in and saying ‘Boy oh boy, we want to build a golf course and use up a bunch of water that we don't have and let's go for it,’ it would get an entirely different sort of response I think,” Clyde said. “… I think the overall irrigation use needs to be as restrictive as it can be. I would hate to be in a situation where we have Mountain Regional telling people in Snyderville that they can't take a shower because we have to irrigate a golf course in Promontory.”

The county issued the low impact permit last week. A Promontory official said it would take 18 months to two years to build the course.

Alexander joined KPCW in 2021 after two years reporting on Summit County for The Park Record. While there, he won many awards for covering issues ranging from school curriculum to East Side legacy agriculture operations to land-use disputes. He arrived in Utah by way of Madison, Wisconsin, and western Massachusetts, with stints living in other areas across the country and world. When not attending a public meeting or trying to figure out what a PID is, Alexander enjoys skiing, reading and watching the Celtics.