Q&A with Rancho Santa Fe Committee Chair Heather Slosar
Outgoing Rancho Santa Fe Association Board Director Heather Slosar, chair of the Covenant Club Committee, recently answered some frequently asked questions about the status of the proposed pool and fitness center.
Please explain how the Covenant Club became an important issue for the RSF Association board?
Slosar: The answer to this question goes back to the Association and Golf boards of 2012 - 2013. The Golf Club leaders were not satisfied with the membership loss trends they saw at the club and wanted to explore ways, with the support of the Association, to appeal to more Covenant members. The Golf Club hired ClubMark Consultants to conduct a thorough questionnaire of members and provide feedback to the boards with advice for next steps. ClubMark advised the joint boards that golf and tennis are on the decline not only locally, but all over the nation and the strategy that works in other communities should be adapted by the Covenant. The way to increase membership at both clubs is to increase amenities that appeal to a broader demographic that included a pool, casual dining and health club.
Can you explain the process that led to the $350,000 feasibility study?
Slosar: When I began on the RSF Association board in 2013 the Golf and Association boards were presented with ClubMark’s recommendations to add amenities. I volunteered to lead a steering committee to explore the possibility of adding such amenities. For over a year our team worked to bring the issue to members for a vote. In November 2014 members voted affirmatively to spend $350,000 for studying the feasibility of the Covenant Club on the joint Golf and Tennis campus in between the Player’s Clubhouse and Tennis Club. Language in the ballot also included assurances that following the feasibility phase, the Covenant Club would be brought to another community-wide vote. We are still in the feasibility phase and while slightly delayed, expect to bring the Covenant Club plan to vote in the Fall of 2016.
Does the RSF Association board plan to proceed with the $15.8 million Covenant Club design?
Slosar: No. The first step of any major project is the initial feasibility. This came back with a $15.8 million price tag. Now the next logical step in the feasibility study is being taken — scrutinizing the results, value-engineering the preliminary design, collecting feedback from the community, and exploring a feasible financing plan. Only after further input from the community and completion of a reasonable design and financial model will the members vote on the Club.
Will the board be spending more money to come up a final design and financial plan beyond that already allocated for the feasibility study?
Has the committee or staff done any other analysis or financial planning?
Slosar: Staff has been working to establish bids on aspects of the project that were not yet value-engineered to get real solid numbers for a further refinement of the estimator’s report. Additionally, a scaled down version of the Covenant Club is also being reviewed. As far as the financial planning, a pro-forma was completed over two years ago and has undergone only slight modifications. Further review and analysis has been ongoing by staff and members of the Covenant Club subcommittees. The analysis is not done yet, but the new plan will likely be significantly less expensive and more financially attractive than the preliminary design and cost estimate. When this work is complete there is expected to be an option in the $10 million range.
Will the community have an opportunity to give additional input on the design, location, and financing?
Slosar: Yes. We will continue to hold open meetings and encourage everyone in the community to provide feedback, suggestions, comments, and questions. Our next subcommittee meeting is scheduled for Friday, June 10 at 9 a.m. Location is not yet determined, but will be noticed to all members as soon as possible. It is open to all Covenant members.
Will the RSF Association members have an opportunity to vote on the final plan?
Slosar: Yes. We are aiming for September 2016.
What are your next steps?
Slosar: We continue to refine the preliminary cost estimate for the capital expenditure as well as the membership fees. We also intend to contact philanthropists with a capital donations and a naming campaign as soon as we have the project estimates completed. We have our next meeting on June 10. After incorporating community input from that meeting, we hope to have the vote for the Covenant Club on a ballot in September 2016.
Is there any misinformation going around the community that you would like to clear up?
Slosar: Yes. First, this isn’t a project of the “Board” or the “Covenant Club Committee.” This project was brought to us by the Golf Club board’s hired consultant as well as community members who wanted us to explore an option to build a facility similar to those that are now standard in similar, high-end communities. We have a fiduciary duty to see this process through. And contrary to the divisive rhetoric, we aren’t spending any more money than was approved by the community to do so.
Second, I keep hearing that the board is going to “build the Covenant Club no matter what.” This is simply untrue. The board has a responsibility to the members who voted for a feasibility study to finish the full due diligence such a study entails. Only after this process is completed will we have a final plan. And only if the community votes in favor of the final plan will we build such a facility. Every member will have an opportunity to vote. Please keep an open mind until you see the full plan.
After your term will you still be considered chair of the Covenant Club committee?
Slosar: Although my term is ending June 30 I would like to continue as Chair of the Covenant Club. However, just like other board committees, I would serve at the pleasure of the board and they will be the ones to decide who leads the committee.
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