Real Estate & Construction  May 20, 2022

Timnath tees up for Topgolf

TIMNATH — Northern Colorado could soon be the home of a highly coveted entertainment and recreation amenity: a Topgolf facility.

Documents gathered by BizWest through a Colorado Open Records Act request indicate that Timnath officials have been actively pursuing Topgolf, which has Colorado locations in Thornton and Colorado Springs, for at least six months and have floated the proposal of a generous tax- and fee-incentive package to lure the popular venue to town.

Topgolf and Timnath officials appear to be targeting the roughly 240-acre Ladera development near the intersection of Harmony Road and Interstate 25 for the project. 

Dallas-based Topgolf Entertainment Group builds large-scale, often multi-story driving ranges that allow golfers to play a variety of electronically scored games. The sites, which are popular for dates and company outings, also heavily feature food and beverage service.

Connell LLC is the developer of the Ladera site, town documents show. BizWest reached out to Connell for comment, but none was provided Friday morning. Topgolf also did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

Late last year, town officials received a petition, which was ultimately approved, for the organization of a Business Improvement District at the site that establishes two new metro districts.

The metro districts are expected to raise about $95 million to pay for public improvements at Ladera, Timnath documents show.

Timnath Town Council last year approved an ordinance granting a 50% sales tax credit for the development  that “shall remain in effect until the earlier of: a) the date that the Maximum Reimbursement Amount of $5,000,000 has been remitted to any combination of the Developer, the PIF Collection Agent, or any successor or assignee to the Developer or the PIF Collection Agent, or b) ten years after issuance of the first certificate of occupancy for the Ladera Property,” town documents show.

In a signed December 2021 letter to Topgolf real estate manager Jonathan Trenski, Timnath mayor Mark Soukup expressed his “sincerest desire by the Town of Timnath to join our community.”

Specifically, Soukup mentions the Ladera Development as a potential landing place for the new facility. Employees with Connell exchanged emails with town staff that also show Ladera as the proposed location.

Soukup’s letter, which was drafted, reviewed and edited by Timnath town manager Aaron Adams, Public Works Department director Don Taranto, town attorney Lori Graham-West and Community Development Department director Matt Blakely, offered the company a series of proposals that included a 50% reduction on building and impact fees, “a sales tax shareback agreement for the Top Golf enterprise of ⅓ of the current 3% sales tax for 20 years,” a modification of the “the existing Ladera/Connell sales tax sharing agreement to eliminate the proposed Topgolf property so that only the share back agreement proposed above will pertain to the Topgolf property,” and “expedited entitlement processing.”

The letter, which describes Soukup as being “very excited” about the potential for a new Topgolf, notes that the full Timnath Town Council would have to sign off on the offer. 

BizWest was provided with several versions of the letter as it made its way through staff’s editing process, however the substance remained the same across versions. 

Timnath town manager Aaron Adams was carbon-copied on the signed letter.

Graham, in her email exchanges with the other staffers responsible for helping draft the letter, expressed concerns about some of the proposed incentives.

In one note referencing the impact fee reduction, she wrote, “I thought these were a ‘no-go.’ Your call of course.”

In a note added to one of the draft letters, Blakely wrote, “Not to complicate things too much, could we say that we would establish the value of a 50% reduction of building permit and impact fees and then provide that value as incentive to Top Golf? That would give us leeway in the manner of how to pass on those savings.”

This language did not make it onto the letter signed by Soukup.

Taranto responded to colleagues’ emails: “I understand your concern regarding the impact fees but I believe we can achieve the 50% goal in different ways but for this letter it is what we need to say.”

Specific details about the construction of the Topgolf facility were scant in the information provided by Timnath to BizWest, but emails were exchanged late last year between city staff and Grant Nelson with Republic Investment Group in Greenwood Village discussing real estate assessments for the other two Topgolf locations in Colorado. Nelson is listed on town documents as a board member for the Ladera Business Improvement District and those emails provided a glimpse at the potential size and scope of the project.

“The Northern CO facility will be 52 bays instead of the 104 bays in Thornton and Centennial so I am assuming that the size will be a little smaller as well,” Nelson wrote. “The footprint off of the CAD is 26,000 square feet, so maybe it’s two stories and something closer to 50,000 square feet.”

It now appears the proposed Timnath Topgolf could be larger than officials previously expected.

“All, I just got off the phone with Grant to which he called about a different topic, but it morphed into a couple of discussions. One is that he is having a call with Top Golf on Monday to discuss their timing and needs to move forward. They have confirmed the increase in size from 58 bays to 72 to where they need the additional 2 acres and he and the Connells had a meeting yesterday to discuss phase 2 and then the need for annexing the additional 2 acres for them,” senior planner Kevin Koelbel wrote other town staffers in March. “So hopefully we hear some news next week about the next steps for them.”

It’s unclear whether there was any follow up to these discussions.

Executive sessions were held on the subject of Topgolf by Timnath Town Council twice last year, according to information provided by the town after BizWest’s public records request.

No information about those closed-door sessions has been made available, and the town also declined to provide two 2021 email exchanges from a “developer” that were “marked ‘confidential,’” Adams wrote in response to BizWest’s request. 

Internal staff emails show the town was not willing to acquiesce to BizWest’s request for fee waivers for its document request, a courtesy often extended to news organizations. 

Graham, in an email late last month, wrote that she “also sent the request to Carolynne White, so that she and her client will know to expect a news article soon.”

White is mentioned several times in correspondence between Timnath staffers.

During the editing process of Mayor Soukup’s letter to Topgolf, when Graham was ringing alarm bells about the offer to waive certain impact fees, she wrote to her colleagues who pushed for that incentive’s inclusion: “I get it, but Carolynne W. will be throwing this in our face from here on.”

While not expressly noted in the documents provided to BizWest, context clues point to Carolynne White as a prominent attorney with the Denver-based law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.

BizWest reached out to this Carolynne White, but she did not respond Friday morning.

Additionally, Graham, in another email to city officials sent after BizWest’s public records request was submitted, wrote, “We also need to bring council in, so they aren’t surprised. I could send the email to them. They shouldn’t have any materials on this, since I think the only thing we have done with them was an executive session; however, Mark may have met with them separately.”

Presumably, “Mark” refers to Mayor Mark Soukup.

Internal emails suggest Timnath officials are anticipating some pushback from the community to the Topgolf proposal.

Citing an email from a constituent who got wind of the project and had questions about the height of the proposed Topgolf facility, Soukup wrote to staffers in March that “we may have a greater protest on Top Golf than we have anticipated.”

Word of the Topgolf’s plans appears to have begun filtering into the community in early 2021.

A Fort Collins building department staffer forwarded a question she’d received on the project to Timnath officials in January, to which Blakely instructed his staff: “Please let her know that you are not aware of a Topgolf coming to Timnath nor have you received a building permit for it.”

Officials also circulated emails with links to Louisville, Kentucky, news coverage of a lawsuit brought by residents there who opposed a similar project.

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