A zoning hearing officer has approved an 18-hole miniature golf course, driving range, baseball batting cages and pro shop that Pasadena residents fear will increase congestion along Mountain Road.
Richard A. Fine, whose family owns the Ritchie Car Wash, received a special exception July 31 allowing a "commercial recreational facility" on 32 acres zoned for low-density residential development.
The facility, on the north side of Mountain Road at the intersection with Route 100, would include 40 permanent tees and 138 parking spaces.
Neighbors opposed the facility, arguing that a driving range would add unnecessarily to the community's traffic problems. The Greater Pasadena Council, which represents two dozen communities, and a Bell Forest neighbor testified against the project during the June 9 hearing.
"If you were to see Mountain Road at certain times of the day, you would think you were in the largest parking lot in the world," said Buck Tucker, a past president of the Bell Forest Homeowners Association. "It's bumper-to-bumper."
Richard Josephson, of the county Office of Planning and Zoning, said the facility's plan relies on road improvements, for which the state has no money.
But hearing officer Roger Perkins ruled that the facility will not interfere with rush hour traffic, drawing its largest crowds between 7:45 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. "By that time, the volume of traffic on Mountain Road has decreased substantially," he wrote.
No other driving range exists within eight miles of the site, said Mr. Perkins, referring to a county study on the high demand for golf courses and related facilities in North Arundel.
Some neighbors also fumed about the potential disturbance from the flood lights that would illuminate the driving range at night. Two months ago, a hearing officer denied Annapolis Golf Range Inc. a special exception in Edgewater, ruling that the proposed lighting would be "objectionable" to nearby properties.
Mr. Fine said at least 275 feet of woods will buffer Bell Forest residents from his facility, and lighting from the driving range will sit only 4 feet off the ground.
Under county zoning law, driving ranges, animal hospitals, child-care centers, campgrounds, kennels and heliports are permitted with a special exception in a "Residential Low Density District."