Golf driving range gains

Zoning panel allows Westminster farmer to go ahead with plans

June 23, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan | Jennifer Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Despite opposition from neighbors, the Carroll County Board of Zoning Appeals yesterday approved a conditional use allowing a Westminster-area farmer to move ahead with plans for a 25-acre golf driving range.

More than 50 people attended a public hearing before the board yesterday and many criticized the proposed Island Green Driving Range on South Pleasant Valley Road. They cited concerns about traffic, lighting, signs, water source and hours of operation. Many said they wanted to retain the neighborhood's rural character.

"We're going to be overlooking this thing. You start with a golf driving range -- what's next?" said Andrea Walker, a neighbor who spearheaded a campaign to address concerns about the proposal. "We feel like if we didn't stand up, we would have to live with the consequences."

A driving range is among the enterprises allowed as a conditional use in an agricultural area. Other conditional uses include beauty parlors, mausoleums, commercial swimming pools, animal hospitals and airports.

Board member Hoby Wolf said the board's decision is contingent on the developer's addressing concerns about water, traffic and lighting.

"There's got to be a golf range someplace," Wolf said to concerned neighbors. "You don't want it here, so show us where it would be better suited."

Westminster resident Michael Mand asked W. Glenn Haines to lease a section of his farm for the driving range last fall. Mand, marketing manager for Premium Finance of America Inc. in Baltimore, has never built a golf range before but has created a company, Countryside Driving Range, for the operation.

The driving range at 1335 S. Pleasant Valley Road -- just off Route 140 -- would be about six miles southeast of Taneytown and two miles from downtown Westminster. The range would accommodate 60 golfers at one time.

Yesterday Mand described the facility as "imagination golf," giving the golfer different fairways and greens to hit, as well as sand traps and water hazards to overcome. For the golfer, it will look like a fairway at a fine golf course, he said.

"Our design is unique," Mand said. "This concept is being done in other parts of the country, but not here."

The range will encompass 13 acres. He plans to build a clubhouse, which will house concessions, cashier's office and seating area. A parking area will include as many as 85 spaces.

The range will be open 10 months, closed in January and February, he said. Mand said he will need 100 customers a day to make the operation viable.

Among the other concerns raised by neighbors were: the use of chemicals for greens maintenance and ball washing; future plans; whether Mand will apply for a liquor license; grooming activities; and the use of water.

Steven V. Zeiler, who lives next to the proposed entrance, said he wants to protect his well water. He raised concerns that the driving range may diminish his water supply.

Jon Kelly, another neighbor, asked how the developer planned to fill the water hazard.

Mand plans to place tees 400 yards from neighboring homes and Route 140. He said he also plans to plant trees "to create a natural screen," close the facility by 10 p.m., hire security, and have trucks bring in water needed to tend the greens.

Mand said he also plans to give neighbors free access to the range.

"I'm sure that Mr. Mand has a lot of good intentions, but we have no way to enforce them," Walker said. "I know [Haines] is looking at this as a retirement venture, but I don't want it in my back yard."

Mand said construction could begin as early as September -- after Haines harvests his crops. Mand said he plans a May opening.

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