New Tahoe Donner Lodge approved: Residents express optimism over project, despite price tag

Scott Hess
Courtesy illustrationThe Ryan Group Architects designed the new Tahoe Donner Lodge, picture here in an artist's rendering.

In a publicly uncontested application at the Town of Truckee Planning Commission June 11, The Ryan Group Architects received approval to begin construction on the “Lodge at Tahoe Donner” project.

The project will consist of demolishing the existing Tahoe Donner golf course clubhouse, which is approximately 4,100 square feet, and replace it with a new 9,255-square-foot clubhouse, the Lodge at Tahoe Donner. The new building will be constructed approximately 50 feet southwest of the existing clubhouse.

Bill Staehlin, a part-time Tahoe Donner resident, said that he likes the idea of a new lodge, but thinks the project is pricey. “It’s coming in too expensive… They’re about one-third over budget from what they originally guessed,” he said. However, he also commented, “I think the upgrades and improvements are needed.”

Tahoe Donner General Manager Darren Shaw confirmed the cost issue, saying that the original cost was projected at just over $2.8 million, but it has now increased by $799,915 (about 28 percent), at just above $3.58 million.

Another Tahoe Donner resident and part-time Tahoe Donner employee Ellen Grace shared Staehlin’s concern about the price of the project, but also said the lodge is something that needs to be constructed. “If you want to have a quality product, everything needs to be kept up to date,” she said. She added that she supports the project “as long as they keep spending within reason.”

“I believe that the community deserves a community clubhouse that provides the functionality the members indicated was important to them through workshops designed for just that purpose,” Shaw said.

A Tahoe Donner resident who wished to remain nameless said there was a surplus from the Tahoe Donner operations, some of which was used to start a golf course modernization, a project not approved by the membership.

The modernization is scheduled before the construction of the Lodge at Tahoe Donner, and the resident commented, “It’s ironic to me that the part of the Master Plan that got defeated is getting the money and the part that was approved is being pushed back a year.”

In response to this, Shaw said, “The board of directors…assessed the condition of the golf course and determined that while the complete modernization plan could not be funded, a scheduled plan to address longstanding maintenance issues, particularly to the tees and bunkers, would be put into effect starting this year with holes one, eight, 10 and 18.”

In addition, Shaw said that part of the golf course modernization is being funded by $400,000 “prior year operating surpluses,” and the rest of the modernization “will be funded through a 10-year capital plan the board will consider in July or August.”

Shaw said the modernization is warranted mainly because the course has seen little major maintenance since it was constructed, except for an irrigation project two years ago.

With the new, larger building, Ryan Group project architect David Horan said the clubhouse would encompass more amenities, including a pro shop, snack shop, restaurant, lounge, office space and a meeting/banquet room. With the upgrades, he added that the Lodge at Tahoe Donner would be able to open to more than just golfing, and would include community meetings, banquets, events and weddings. He added that the clubhouse should be able to operate year-round.

Shaw added, “With a year-round, full service restaurant, lounge and banquet room, this new facility should give our members a reason not to leave the hill and better yet, it will prove to be a great reason for our Truckee area neighbors to come up the hill.”

In response to the lack of controversy at the Planning Commission meeting, Horan said, “It’s teamwork with the town (staff) and with the owner and with the community that makes it go through so easily.”

Demolition of the current clubhouse will begin this summer, Horan said, and some construction on the new building will begin this fall. Most of the construction will be next spring and summer. During construction, a portable trailer will act as the pro shop, and the existing snack shop and restrooms will remain the same.

“We believe the proposed building would be a welcome addition to the Tahoe Donner community,” Horan said.

The appeal period is open until Mon., June 23, but based on the Planning Commission meeting and the comments from the residents, it seems unlikely that anyone will appeal the approval.

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