The owners of the want to stay open after dark, and are taking their case to the City Council after the Planning Commission rejected a bid to add outdoor lighting.
Demand for the driving range is high, said former city planning and development director Tom Merrell, who was hired by the golf course to lobby for nighttime lighting.
“It tends to be heavily used on the weekend. Many people have indicated they would love to use the facility after hours,” Merrell told the Planning Commission on Tuesday.
After the Planning Commission nixed the idea, the owners filed an appeal to the City Council. The issue probably won't be heard until January, said Cathy Salcedo, executive services manager for the city.
The golf course was asking to stay open until 10 p.m. Planning staff recommended rolling back the hours to 9 p.m. But commissioners could not agree, and after three votes, finally decided to deny the project.
Merrell offered a lengthy presentation about the lighting system, which would use the latest technology in preventing light pollution “spillage” into the nighttime sky. The golf course would use minimal brightness, only 5 foot-candles in intensity, with one fixture per pole.
By comparison, typical sports fields feature light bulbs that average 75 to 100 foot-candles, eight to 12 on a pole, Merrell said. He presented several simulations of what the San Juan Creek Road range might look like at night, but some commissioners remained hesitant.
“We can’t depend on the trees to shield the lights in the long term,” said Commissioner Robert Williams.
Planning Commission Chairman Sheldon Cohen said he’s an avid golfer, although he’s never had the urge to hit any balls at night.
“I want to support the project. I’m just not ready yet,” Cohen said, adding that he was disappointed he could not view any real-life examples of how bright the lights would be. The golf course owners are “going to benefit, but the entire community is going to see the lights," he said.
Commissioners Ginny Kerr and Roy Nunn supported the proposal, while Cohen, Jeff Parkhurst and Williams did not. Commissioners Gene Ratcliffe and Timothy Neely were absent.
Comments from residents at the hearing were mixed.
“Please remember these lights will light the creek, which is a riparian habitat and wildlife corridor,” said resident Yvonne Tschaikowsky, urging a no vote.
Natalie Bernal, range manager, said families like to use the range in the evenings during daylight saving time, but disappear when the days grow short.
“They ask me, 'Why no lights in the winter?' ” she said.
Meanwhile, city staff presented 14 emails and letters from residents in support of the lights.
“I want to use the facility at night,” wrote Sev and Laurie Worthington in a letter penned Nov. 20. “It would not be fair fo the driving range to not be allowed lighting when far stronger lighting is allowed at other recreational facilities.”