Owners of a driving range and mini-golf center in Gambrills want to expand by offering a kiddie go-kart track, a snack bar and other amusements to attract a younger audience.
Billing their plans as a unique entertainment center that would allow golfers to practice while their children keep themselves amused, the owners say their facility would complement the community.
But many residents disagree, citing noise and traffic problems they say an enlarged center would create. The liken the plans to an amusement park that would be incompatible with an area zoned for residential use.
Both sides met before the seven-member county zoning appeals board yesterday, which will rule on the plans within 60 days.
The Night Hawk Golf Center, located on 20 acres along Route 3 between Waugh Chapel and St. Stephen's Church roads, now consists of a driving range, mini-golf course and several batting cages.
The center's co-owner, William Forthofer, testified that the expansion would include a 12,000-square-foot building, which would be used as a play area for children and could be converted into basketball or volleyball courts.
Also included would be a snack bar, small video game room and outdoor kiddie go-kart track, which would be limited to 10 small gas-powered karts designed for parents and small children.
Additional plans call for a six-car "slick track" -- similar to a go-kart track, but gives drivers the sensation of sliding around the course -- apool for bumper-boats and five outside amusement-type rides designedfor toddlers.
The center would retain its current hours, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Parking would double, from 132 to 265 spaces.
"Anne Arundel County has nothing quite like this in existence," said Forthofer's attorney, Susan Henley. "What we are trying to do is appeal to the family. This is not only compatible with the neighborhood, it is an improvement to the neighborhood."
Ken Schmid, a traffic engineer testifying on behalf of Forthofer, said the expanded use will not bringin many additional cars, just more people because entire families would be able to use the facility.
"It seems like a perfect excuse to tell your kids that you are going to take them to the pinball machines and slip in a bucket of balls," Schmid said.
Residents who testified disputed claims that noise generated from the go-kart track would not create a nuisance. Robert Scott, representing the Greater Crofton Council, challenged a noise study because it measured the impactfrom only one go-kart.
And although the nearest home is about one-half mile away, he said, other communities are being planned close by.
"This area is intended to be residential," he said. "It appearsthere will be houses right across from this facility in the future."
Claire Mannle, representing the newly formed St. Stephen's ChurchRoad community association, said the plans go far beyond a simple expansion of a driving range.
"What they are planning is more of an amusement-type facility," she said. "It is not really an expansion ofthe same type of thing."
County Planning Officer Rich Josephson said his office has no problem with the expansion as long as several conditions are met.
Those include a 100-foot tree buffer on the southeast end of the property, underground water tanks for the fire department, and assurances that the snack bars and video games will only be used by patrons of the golf or batting cage facilities.
"We don't want people coming in to just get a snack and leave," he said.