We all probably have a good idea of what a golf course clubhouse is.
You might rent golf carts and buy golf balls there. You can pick up your score cards and those tiny little pencils there. Maybe there's a small bar for some 19th Hole refreshments and a TV or two on the wall. There might even be a few lockers for golfers to stow their car keys while they're out spoiling a good walk.
Here's what most of us probably would agree a golf course clubhouse isn't: "A structure or clustered group of structures associated with a full-size 18-hole golf course that may include locker rooms, spa, health and fitness center, golf and fitness related retail, restaurant and banquet facilities, business center, lodging."
So Saratoga Springs Planning Board members shouldn't be duped into recommending a change in the city's official definition of a "clubhouse" just so Saratoga National Golf Course can get around an earlier rejection of its plans to create a year-round resort on the property.
The board instead should stick with the existing definition of a clubhouse and allow the city to retain the authority over the other types of proposed uses.
If Saratoga National wants a resort, it should do it based on the existing regulations and on the merits of its arguments for helping the local economy, not by seeking to change the rules in the middle of the game.
If the developers want a hotel, let them get approval for a hotel, separately from a clubhouse. If they want a spa, or a restaurant, ... you get the idea.
If the city adopts the change in definition, it could open the doors to other developers using the same distorted definition in proposing similar projects, perhaps in locations where the project would be detrimental to the community.
This isn't to say that the project itself isn't still legitimate. In March, we supported efforts for a zoning change to create the year-round destination resort in the city’s protected greenbelt.
At the time, the project included a 100-unit hotel, 100 condominiums, a spa and an indoor golf facility. Because it was concentrated on 15 acres on a hill far from Union Avenue, and because the developers planned to set aside nearly 400 acres that wouldn't be developed, we thought it fit in with the city's goals to maintain quality green space on the entrance points to the city.
But a proposal to amend a basic definition isn't the same thing as a negotiating a variance to meet the conditions of a broadly defined conservation district.
The Planning Board tonight should vote to advise the City Council not to expand the definition of "clubhouse" and to ensure the city doesn't give up control over disparate elements of major development projects in the future.