WILLIAMSTOWN — A concession by the owner of Waubeeka Golf Links may have cleared the way to an agreement that would allow him to pursue plans to build a hotel on the golf course.
At the end of a three-hour meeting Thursday night, the five members of the Williamstown Planning Board seemed closer to an agreement than they have since the proposal was brought to the board last fall.
A surprise offer from property owner Michael Deep, through his attorney Stanley Parese, to devote 67.5 acres of undeveloped land to a permanent conservation restriction if Deep is permitted to build and operate a country inn led board members toward seemingly common ground.
"My client wants the project to be one the people in town will be proud of for years to come," Parese said.
He said that one condition would be that Deep be permitted to seek to install a solar array somewhere on the parcel to power the golf course.
With that concession on the record, opponents of the proposal agreed to drop their demands for even more land in conservation restriction, and brought the discussion forward to the final issue facing contention — the potential size of the country inn.
Citing the 67.5-acre concession, board member Ann McCallum noted progress.
"I think we're getting somewhere," she said. "But the size [of the building] is very important."
She expressed concern that if the building is too big, the parking needs could become a visual concern.
Deep has previously noted that the golf course is losing money annually and is in danger of closing. He hopes to add a country inn to make the golf course profitable and to bring more visitors to town.
During the ongoing process, he has agreed to limit the hotel to 120 rooms. He has also sought a 300-seat banquet hall, swimming pool and tennis courts, along with a pro shop, clubhouse and restaurant with structures no higher than three floors.
Two differing approaches to limiting building size became the focus, with some looking to set a maximum square footage, others aiming to limit to 10 acres the land on which structures could be built. The golf course property is 200 acres.
After further discussion, board members who had opposed the plan seemed open to allowing a larger structure than they had in the past, going from 20,000 square feet to 70,000 square feet or more.
Other changes offered by Parese include phrasing that requires all property not included in the building envelope to remain as open space. It also prohibits any dwelling units on the golf course property if the country inn is permitted.
The Planning Board's effort is meant to amend a citizen's petition to Town Meeting — submitted by Parese — that seeks to alter zoning at the golf course to allow Deep to pursue permission to build a country inn there.
Opponents have contended that Deep's concept has changed over time, and is too big for the area, along with their demands for further open space requirements.
In the end, the board agreed to let town staff draw up two different documents that contain everything agreed upon, and the two different approaches, for further examination at the next meeting. No formal agreement has been reached.
The next meeting was set for 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4, at Town Hall.
Nearly at the end of the meeting, Hugh Daley, a member of the Select Board, encouraged the board to keep reaching for common ground.
"I think you guys have a really exciting opportunity here," he said. "Let's not squander that."