Roseville/Placer News

Proposal to develop part of Rocklin Golf Club riles neighbors

A proposal to develop a small part of a Rocklin golf course into homes has drawn protests from neighbors.

Rocklin Golf Club owner Charlie Gibson wants to build 38 homes over roughly five acres on his 187-acre course. Gibson, a former PGA professional, said the profits would be used to fund needed repairs on the 51-year-old course.

Rocklin Golf Club has seen better days as numerous other golf courses and recreation clubs grew around it in Placer County. In its heyday, the property was considered a premier country club destination, with its lush green, tennis courts and picturesque landscape. Members paid hefty dues to enjoy the amenities and fine dining in the clubhouse.

Neighbors say the new homes will damage the quality of life in this quiet suburban enclave. They worry about traffic and congestion from the project, which includes a mix of two-story single-family houses and single-story compact villas. More importantly, they fear green-lighting the proposal would open the floodgates to even more homes.

“It creates a bad precedent for the future,” said Frank Geremia, leader of the Friends of Rocklin Open Space, which is opposed to Gibson’s plan. “Paving over the golf course isn’t any good for the community. That’s the bottom line.”

But Gibson says he has no choice but to open less than 3 percent of the course to development. He and a partner bought the golf course, formerly known as the Sunset Whitney Golf Club, from a bank three years ago for $2.5 million.

The bank had run the property into the ground, Gibson said, noting that he’s already spent nearly $300,000 in repairs and upgrades, including a new banquet room. Between the lackluster economy and competition from other golf courses, business at Rocklin Golf Club has been tough, he said.

“Everything is falling apart at a rampant rate ... all the pipes, irrigation and roof,” Gibson said. “This is a way to infuse some operating capital.”

Part of the development, the 20 villas, will replace the club’s tennis courts, which have been out of commission for more than a decade. The 18 single-family homes will be built off Sunset Boulevard on the western side of the property on part of the green. Gibson declined to say how much the project could generate.

Gibson initially asked to develop a third lot, 1.8 acres of open space across from Clover Valley Park, but now plans to donate it to the city as a compromise.

The proposal will have to be reviewed by the city Planning Commission before it heads to the Rocklin City Council.

Mayor Scott Yuill said it was premature for him to take a position on the issue but noted that the council “had always supported a hardy supply of open space.”

The development debate recently heated up with both sides holding separate town-hall meetings to rally support. Neighbors have accused Gibson of intentionally trying to sabotage the golf course as an excuse to develop the land. But Gibson, a lifelong golfer, noted that the other two properties under his ownership, Wildhorse Golf Club in Davis and Morgan Creek Golf Club in Roseville, are thriving. He suggested that the Rocklin operation could close if the development plan is blocked.

Geremia called the threats “irresponsible” and said neighbors would use all tools to stop the project, adding that a petition to reject the proposal has generated 300 signatures so far. Signs that read “no urban development” are planted in the front yards of several area homes.

Gibson declined to provide any financial numbers but said he is losing money on Rocklin Golf Club, where last year 40,000 people played.

“I work too hard to feed that facility,” he said. “I’ve got to figure out a way to create value. My first choice is I want it to be a golf course.”