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Camelback Inn's Indian Bend Course to be built anew
Rob Bartley, Camelback Golf Club director of golf, on the Indian Bend Golf Course at Camelback Inn last April. (File photo)

Some things get better with age - a golf course is not one of them.

The JW Marriott Camelback Inn's Indian Bend Golf Course is headed for a full overhaul complete with alternate tee locations, the restructuring of individual holes, re-configured golf cart paths and a completely new course topography, an April 17 staff report states.

The proposed project will create a new 150-acre, 18-hole course designed with a Hurdzan Fry Environmental Golf Design - a world-renowned golf course design house known for environmentally sustainable approaches to design and operations.

The Paradise Valley Planning Commission April 17 took a first-blush look at the proposed intermediate special-use permit application submitted by Nicholas Wood of Snell & Wilmer Law Offices.

Mr. Wood is a zoning lawyer representing Camelback Properties Inn, Inc.

A special use is a primarily non-residential land use deemed to be generally compatible with the residential character of the Town of Paradise Valley, according to article 11 of the Paradise Valley Town Code.

Paradise Valley Town Council April 12 unani­mously approved a statement of direction outlying the planning commission's scope of scrutiny including a review of visible and audible affects on neighbors and dust miti­gation requirements during construction.

Camelback Inn officials say they hope to reduce operating costs, save millions of gallons of water annually and see an instant bump in revenue once the revamped Indian Bend course reopens.

The construction timeline is set for 15 to 18 months and, if everything goes according to plan, construction could begin as early as July.

Since December Camelback Inn officials have been meeting with immediate neighbors to the golf course to understand what local concerns may be for the overall product and during the coming construction months.

View a 3D bird's eye view of the project here

"I want to commend the applicant for the amount of outreach they have already done," Planning Commission Chairwoman Maria Syms said at the April 17 meeting. "They really have tried to address those concerns and I know they have been very responsive."

Of the 113 property owners who own a home adjacent to the existing course, about 95 percent have been contacted seeking opinions and proposed plans for the new course, Mr. Wood contends.

New greens

Rob Bartley, Camelback Golf Club director of golf, says the new course will be a shot in the arm to a declining asset of an iconic Paradise Valley resort.

"Indian Bend is 30 years old and nobody wants to play it - that is what our customers are saying," he told the commission.

Built in 1972, the existing Indian Bend Golf Course has seen better days, Mr. Bartley points out.

"We are known as a world-class resort," he said after the April 17 work session. "It is just in dire need for renovations."

The are two courses at the Camelback Inn locations - the Padre and Indian Bend courses.

Today it costs $99 for a round of golf at the Indian Bend course compared to the $139 for the Padre Golf Course, Mr. Bartley points out.

When the new course is completed a round of golf on either course is anticipated to cost about $149.

"The golf component was really lagging behind," he said.

According to Mr. Bartley, in calendar year 2011 there were about 52,000 rounds of golf played on the Indian Bend course - with only 10 percent of those proceeds coming from people staying at the hotel.

"There has been a change from 72,000 to 52,000 annual rounds over the last two years," he explained. "This course will now become a true golf destination for Paradise Valley."

The economic boon for Camelback Inn may come into play for the entire region, according to Rachel Pearson, a spokeswoman for the Scottsdale Convention and Visitor's Bureau

"Part of what keeps golf courses and resorts top notch is in fact that they are staying competitive with the newest trends," she said in an April 17 phone interview.

For any resort or golf course change and constant evolution is the facility's lifeblood, Ms. Pearson says.

"Golf courses are looking to do the same thing," she said of annual remodels done by Scottsdale and Camelback resorts. "To be at its best and provide the best experience for their visitors."

Ms. Pearson says if a resort isn't building - adding new elements to amenities the entire market suffers - its dying.

"I think it is a really positive thing - you should be worried you don't see any construction at the airport," she said noting the old adage that in certain areas construction depicts economic activity. "The same thing is true and we constantly see remodeled construction at our properties."

New process

According to Eva Cutro, Paradise Valley community development director, the Indian Bend Gold Course SUP application is one of two that are participating in the town's new streamlined planning application process.

In an effort to help spur redevelopment of defunct resort property and to cut down the process in some cases by six months, Paradise Valley Town Council has drawn new guidelines for its SUP process.

The new requirements for filing an amendment to an entity's SUP includes a narrative of the project, a list of proposed uses and a site plan along with parking and traffic circulation requirements.

Mr. Wood says his client is pleased in the early stages of the SUP process.

"I am excited about that," he said before the April 17 work session. "Like anything else, creating efficiencies is good for the town and for the applicant."

Mr. Wood says the resort was determined to understand what neighborhood hurdles may come before submitting the SUP application, knowing the proces would not take long.

"We filed this just two weeks ago - after we did public outreach," he explained. "We really wanted to hear the requests, concerns of the neighbors ... we are problem solvers."

In total, Mr. Wood and his colleagues had six public meetings starting in December of last year.

He says the typical response involved neighbors expressing concerns over tree and foliage coverage.

"We had a lot of people come and it was very beneficial," he said of the six open-house style meeting held for resident input. "We made some design changes because of it."

Paradise Valley Planning Commissioner Lou Werner says the application submitted, background provided and outreach conducted by the Camelback Inn is the epitome of what makes for a good business neighbor.

"This the epitome of it - the outreach to the neighbors," he said of good business practices. "It is a win-win for everyone. As I said earlier ‘The town is open for business and we are looking forward to it.'"

At its May 1 meeting, the Paradise Valley Planning Commission plans to meet 5 p.m. at the Camelback Golf Club, 7847 N. Mockingbird Lane.

Paradise Valley Town Council is expected to make a final decision on the proposed golf course project this June following a recommendation vote by the planning commission some time in May.

News Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at 623-445-2774 via e-mail at tthornton@newszap.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/nvnewsman

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