Mini Golf Course Decision Hinges On Wordsmithing

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Development

Harwich news.

HARWICH — A final decision on the proposal for a miniature golf course at Route 28 and Sisson Road was postponed by the planning board last week to allow time to develop specific language and conditions to apply to the project.

“I think there needs to be more work done by the staff to get a final decision put together,” planning board member Joseph McParland said, adding that the board was likely to approve the project. “I don’t think there is anything we disagree with. I certainly didn’t see anything, but I’d be more comfortable with the planning director writing up an ultimate hard decision.”

The applicants, Steve Gopoyan and Swavi Osev, who plan to lease the site from Emulous E. Hall Realty Trust, were before the planning board last week seeking a site plan review special permit and use special permit. The property is located in both Commercial Highway-One and Residential Medium districts.

The initial proposal was to locate two 18-hole miniature golf courses on the property adjacent to Bud’s Go-Kart along Sisson Road, but after several hearings the project was reduced to just 18 holes. The appeals board granted a variance to locate a portion of the course in a residential district. The conservation commission has also approved the project, a portion of which is located in the floodplain.

Attorney Andrew Singer said the miniature golf course will eliminate the longtime year-round storage of boats, trailers and soil on the residential section of the property, which will decrease the commercial use and convert it from a year-round operation to a seasonal one. An expanded vegetated buffer zone will be added, shielding the Beach Plum Condominiums to the east side of the property from the course, he said.

The proposal places two-thirds of the course in the residential zone, keeping the development further away from the floodplain in the lower section of the site, protecting environmentally sensitive areas and offering stormwater enhancements, Singer said.

Planning board member Craig Chadwick raised issues about traffic flow and the two access and egress points on Sisson Road. Singer said traffic is not channeled now, with an open section of roadway feeding vehicles into Bud’s Go-Kart parking lot. The proposal will have access directly across from the Star Market entrance, so drivers will be more aware and expect vehicles turning. There has also been discussion, Singer said, with town officials about the removal of the island now in the enter of Sisson Road.

Other issues raised included the lighting plan and time of course operations. Planning board member Bill Stoltz wanted to know what time the lights would be shut off at night. Singer estimated that would happen around 11;30 p.m., after customers depart and the facilities are cleaned. Additional questions were raised about a lighthouse that will be part of the course. Singer said the light from it would be shielded, as would all the lighting.

Planning board member David Harris questioned the hours of operation after Osev said customers would be allowed to access the course until 10 p.m. Singer said it takes an average of 50 minutes to play the course. Harris said the hours of operation should end at 11 p.m.

“My grandson can stretch 45 minutes into an hour-and-a-half,” Harris responded.

Attorney David Reid, representing residents of the Beach Plum Condominiums, said residents have always opposed the commercial use of the residential district. He admitted that with the appeals board issuance of the variance, that point is now academic.

“I think my clients are much more comfortable, not happy, with what’s proposed,” Reid said. The conditions placed on the project by the appeals board in the variance, including the lighthouse being shielded and the lights turned off when closed, should be honored by the planning board, he said. Those conditions also state the hours of operation will be 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Gopoyan said the operation will be similar to Bud’s Go-Karts, which may still be running to 11:15 to 11:30 p.m. He compared the golf course operation to restaurants, which may serve until 10 p.m. but people remain later while they are dining.

Singer said the golf course will follow Bud’s Go Karts operation, but Reid emphasized the variance require that the hours of operation end at 10 p.m. Town Planner Charleen Greenhalgh said the appeals board’s conditions must be adhered to. Given that this was the first time the planning board heard testimony, she agreed with continuing the hearing, which allow her to rework language relating to lighting and better define the conditions of the decision. The board voted to continue the hearing to Oct. 6.