WILLIAMSTOWN >> It's time to tee off.
Now that he has cleared a formidable zoning hurdle, Waubeeka Golf Links owner Michael Deep said he hopes to have a consultant on board by early June so he can move ahead with his plan to turn his 18-hole, 50-year-old golf course into a top-notch destination.
"We want a firm that knows what we want," he said during a recent interview. "We are talking to three firms and we need to do interviews next week."
Attorney Stanley Parese, General Manager Victoria Richardello and financial advisor Richard Tavelli are part of the interview team, Deep said.
Voters approved a Waubeeka Overlay District allowing property development during a May 17 annual town meeting. The decision means that Deep can move ahead with a proposed a country inn and other amenities at the Route 7 site, which had been zoned residential.
A 2020 opening date is planned, he said. He estimated total costs at about $45 million.
Even as a steady rain fell, there were about six golfers on the course , either playing under umbrellas or leaving the shelter of golf carts to play through the holes.
"It could be about a year before we have anything to bring to the town Zoning Board," he said. "We know what we don't want; we don't want a big-box chain hotel here. We told the town 120 rooms and that means if we do a suite with three rooms we take that off the 120 total. So let's say we do 5 two-room suites, that's 10 we take off the 120."
Deep said that if the current septic system must be replaced – which is likely, he added — the resort will build its own wastewater system. There are no plans to seek an extension of a town system, he said.
"There are no plans to ask for a tax break," he said. "We want people to think that Waubeeka is a good corporate citizen. We need the support of the people of Williamstown. We need people to come play golf here, bring their kids here."
Deep said that consultant Patrick Michael, who co-founded Burlington Vt.–based solar energy company Vesco LLC in 2008 and has worked with other renewable resource energy firms since then, toured the 67-acre site near the 13th hole and deemed it suitable for "green" (environmentally friendly ) energy sources such as a photovoltaic or solar system and geothermal wells.
"We want a green hotel," Deep said. "Patrick Michael said he believes there is no problem at that site for those ventures. We don't want to upset the neighbors or the neighborhood. We do not want to clear-cut the land."
Cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, tennis and bocce courts, and pond ice-skating could be part of the finished resort, Deep said.
"We have six ponds on this property," he noted. "They are not big enough for ice hockey but wouldn't it be great to have kids be able to go ice-skating on a pond? We have a summer clientele, we need to build a winter clientele."
Youth will not be forgotten, Deep said. The course already hosts a Sunday afternoon Junior Golf Clinic with golfer Peter French. French and recently hired Class A professional course golf pro Drew Keafabber share an interest with launching a Professional Golf Association Junior League at Waubeeka, Deep said.
He pledged that local contractors will be first in line as construction begins.
"By local I mean Berkshire County," Deep said. "I've never forgotten the people here and I can promise you we will hire local people. We have local plumbers; right off the top I can think of Rickert Electric (town-based electrician firm). The only way we wouldn't use local is if locals can't do it."
His goal is to create an unforgettable destination.
"We will have a hotel, we will have beautiful views, we will have everything brand new and built on a golf course," he said. "Nobody else will have that. Everything will be "green" and if everything goes through we will have the best golf course in the state. I want people to come here and just say 'wow.' I want them to remember that they played Waubeeka."