Tee-d off: Golf course’s fate is heated topic | SierraSun.com

Tee-d off: Golf course’s fate is heated topic

Sierra Countis
Sierra Sun

Jason Kelley/Sierra SunWerner Buchele of Alpine Meadows takes a swing on the first tee at Ponderosa Golf Course Wednesday morning.

There wasn’t a shortage of opinions Tuesday when the Truckee Planning Commission took up the possible fate of the Ponderosa Golf Course.

As part of wrapping up public hearings on the town’s 2025 General Plan, commissioners took comment about a proposed special study area for the nine-hole golf course, which the owner wants re-zoned for up to 150 residential units in the updated General Plan.

The discussion of the other elements in the town’s plan ” land use, community character, conservation and open space, and Teichert’s planned community one ” paled in comparison to the attention Ponderosa Golf Course received from those in attendance.

“We’ve come to a crossroads,” said Robert Himsl, whose family has owned the links for 43 years. “[The golf course] has become a burden and is not an asset anymore. The proposal for the study area was the right thing to do.”

Re-zoning Ponderosa from a recreational designation to residential had homeowners concerned because many of them had purchased property decades ago, with the idea that the golf course’s zoning would remain the same.

There were a number of residents who live near the course who said they don’t want to see the course change, particularly because of its character and open space.

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For aging baby-boomers and seniors living in a town geared toward outdoor activities, golfing is a sport many are capable of participating in, said resident Diana Yorgan who is in favor of keeping Ponderosa intact.

Ponderosa was constructed in the early 1960s for the cost of $110,000 with the help of volunteer workers. It was the first golf course to be built in Truckee.

Betty Kielhofer was the president of the organization that helped construct the course, said her son, Kary Kielhofer at the meeting. His mother has since passed away, but he said he attended the meeting in order to express his mother’s wishes in preserving Ponderosa as it is today.

A nine-hole golf course is not profitable with the competition of other courses in the surrounding area, according to Himsl. His family approached the town about conducting a special study for the 53 acres of land. They also met with the Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District to discuss creating a shorter, Par 3 course for the community, according to Himsl.

The proposed special study would entail “a more intensive study before development can be planned for,” said Duane Hall, town planner. Other properties, such as McIver Hill where the Sierra College campus will be built, also required the same special study to allow for town and community input, he said.

Himsl, meanwhile, said all his family wants is for the special study to move forward.

“There was a method to our decision,” Himsl said. “We are sorry we upset some people.”

After listening to the roomful of responses to the Ponderosa agenda item, Planning Commission Vice Chair Bob Johnston asked, “Why can’t we postpone the special study for five years?”

Johnston said the market might improve in that time and lead to an increase in Ponderosa’s profitability.

While no final decision was made, the planning commission said they will take all of the public comments, suggestions, and written comments regarding all of the elements in the General Plan into consideration to prepare for next week’s discussion and deliberation meeting.

At Tuesday’s Truckee Planning Commission meeting, residents pointed out that the nine-hole Ponderosa Golf Course was a more affordable course for the average worker or senior citizen to play.

The cost to play a round at Ponderosa is approximately one third of the cost to play 18 holes at Coyote Moon Golf Course. Here are the fees for other courses in the area.

– Ponderosa Golf Course (Nine hole course) – $52 for 18 holes, $32 for 9 holes, $23 for twilight golf after 3:30 p.m. For seniors, $43 for 18 holes and $30 for 9 holes.

– Coyote Moon Golf Course – $150 for 18 holes and $95 for 9 holes after 3:30 p.m.

– Old Greenwood Golf Course – $170 for 18 holes and $100 for twilight golf after 4 p.m.

– Resort at Squaw Creek – $95 for 18 holes and $55 for twilight golf after 5 p.m.

– Tahoe City Golf Course (Nine hole course) – $65 for 18 holes, $35 for 9 holes, and $25 after 2 p.m.

– Tahoe Donner Golf Course – $120 (with cart) for 18 holes, $40 for 9 holes after 4 p.m., and $35 after 5 p.m.

– Old Brockway Golf Course – $68 for 18 holes, $40 for 9 holes, and $30 for twilight golf after 4 p.m.