Edina was farmland when Interlachen Country Club was founded in 1909. Now, the club and its golf course occupy the heart of the metro, its 180 rolling acres of golf greens, woods and ponds landlocked by a sea of suburbia.
That makes expansion difficult. Just how difficult became evident last week, when the club's proposal to build new maintenance buildings on residential property it bought a few years ago ran into trouble with the city's Planning Commission.
In the face of the commission's opposition, the club withdrew its proposal, elating neighbors who live on and near Belmore Lane and who had fought the conditional use permit with reams of paper analysis and a lawyer.
"We are really happy," said Mary McDonald, whose home is near the end of the cul-de-sac where the buildings would have been built.
"Maybe it will never come back to haunt us, but we have to be vigilant. I'm hoping they find a good solution that works for everyone."
Planning Commission members were emphatic in expressing their feeling that the large steel-clad maintenance buildings with a footprint covering more than half an acre would be out of place in a residential neighborhood. Only one of the nine members appeared to side with the club, which contended that the end of Belmore Lane was the only logical building site. Several commission members said there was no public benefit to the project and that the industrial-style buildings would mar the residential quality of the neighborhood.
Residents "have a right to quiet enjoyment of their property," said commissioner Arlene Forrest. "It would be like a three-story building going in at the end of their block."
Friction between the club and nearby residents is unusual. They say Interlachen has always been a good neighbor. Last July, the club held an informational meeting about the building proposal. When neighbors objected to the club's plan to use Belmore for vehicle access to the site, the club agreed to direct traffic through club land instead.
George Carroll, Interlachen's general manager, said in an interview that the golf course's circa-1930 maintenance building near the clubhouse is badly outdated and needs replacing. The club wanted to construct two buildings that would total about 24,000 square feet. The biggest building would have offices for the course superintendent and his assistants, showers, a heated room where machinery could be repaired and cold storage for about 40 golf carts and 28 lawn mowers. A smaller building nearby would be used as a storeroom for grass seed, sand and soil.
Carroll said the Belmore Lane location was chosen because "it's the only piece of land that's big enough." Though residents said they were worried about possible smells or dangerous chemicals, Carroll said modern golf course storage buildings are safe and that there would be no odors.
The buildings would have been painted brown to blend with the landscape and would have been shielded by trees and shrubbery.
"Honestly, they won't even know it's there once it's built," Carroll said before the meeting. "I think the club has almost bent over backwards for neighbors; we're very cognizant of their concerns. They just don't know what goes on there."
But McDonald and neighbor Stuart Lind said the industrial buildings would be visually out of place and be a source of early morning noise. And Lind said he wondered if this was just the start of club expansion into the surrounding neighborhood.
"Basically, this is like Mayberry," he said. "It's a wonderful place to live... They would be tearing down three houses and put a public works facility in our neighborhood."
Neighbors argued that the buildings would affect their property values and that early-morning mowing would disrupt the neighborhood. Carroll said golf course mowing normally starts around 7 a.m., though there a few times when mowing occurs at night. He said that usually ends by 8:30 p.m.
Neighbors and some Planning Commission members were not convinced that the Belmore site was the only place on club land for a new maintenance complex. Another possible location cited by some was an open area nearer the clubhouse. The site is called "the chicken farm," because there once was a farm there.
Carroll said the area isn't big enough. The club wants to put a short-game practice area there.
"We've been working on this six years," he said before the commission meeting. "Everything we can think of has been thought of."
After the club withdrew its application, Carroll said he isn't sure what will happen next.
"I don't know," he said. "I don't know if there is a next step."
Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380