Williamstown Select Board backs plan for inn Waubeeka Golf Links


WILLIAMSTOWN — Less than a week after the Planning Board's contentious 3-2 vote , the Select Board voted 4-1 to endorse as-is a plan by Waubeeka Golf Links allow ing it to apply for the special permit it needs to build a n inn on the site.

During Monday evening 's discussion, Select Board Chairwoman Jane Patton scolded the members of the Planning Board who endorsed a plan opponents say would render the inn project unworkable, but which supporters contend is a compromise that still allows it to happen .

"Where I am from, nobody would call that a compromise," Patton said. "It doesn't matter if we pass something that a developer wouldn't touch. It just wouldn't matter."

She added that the proposal supported by the Planning Board 's 3-2 vote , the so-called Gardner Amendment, contained "insurmountable hurdles" that would doom any effort to build the inn .

On May 4, three members of the Planning Board passed the surprise amendment concerning the Waubeeka Golf Links inn plan , which Waubeeka owner Michael Deep has said is too restrictive and will not allow enough building space to provide adequate revenue.

The Gardner Amendment is meant to amend a citizens petition to Town Meeting — submitted by attorney Stanley Parese, who represents Waubeeka — that seeks to change the zoning at the golf course to allow Deep to pursue a country inn there.

The Gardner Amendment, written by Planning Board member Sarah Gardner, brings back a clause that had been deemed dormant at the end of an April 28 meeting.

The clause in the Gardner Amendment sets building space on the course at 50,000 square feet, and if Deep wants to go to 60,000 square feet, he would have to set aside another 40 acres of land for permanent conservation restriction.

At that April 28 meeting of the Planning Board, Deep, through his attorney, already had offered to set aside 67.5 acres of undeveloped land in a conservation restriction, a concession that seemed to spark concessions from three board members who had opposed every Waubeeka proposal thus far.

But all that turned around when the Gardner Amendment was introduced and passed on May 4. The Gardner Amendment has since been challenged with an Open Meeting Law complaint.

During the Select Board discussion Monday night, Andrew Hogeland, a member of the Select Board, suggested that the Planning Board get another chance to reach an agreement for a larger building and less conserved land.

"There is a chance they could change it," he said, noting that the Planning board is scheduled to meet the night before Town Meeting. "Based on my conversations after the [May 4 meeting ], there is a willingness to change the amendment."

Other Select Board members expressed an unwillingness to leave it in the hands of the Planning Board again.

"Then why did they pass it to begin with?" said Select Board Member Hugh Daley. "I agree that the [Gardner ] amendment is fundamentally flawed, but they put forward the plan they wanted."

Planning Board Chairwoman Amy Jeschawitz noted that the Planning Board has spent nine months on this proposal to the extent that other business before the board has been delayed. As a result, Jeschawitz said she would prefer not to take up the Waubeeka proposal again.

Select Board member Ronald Turbin agreed.

"Now we have to act like the Select Board and make a recommendation," he said.

Deep previously said that the golf course is losing money annually and is in danger of closing. He hopes to add a country inn to make the course profitable and bring more visitors to town. He has expressed a desire to build a 300-seat banquet hall, swimming pool and tennis courts, along with a pro shop, clubhouse and restaurant to service hotel guests and golfers.

Attorney Parese told the Select Board on Monday that if the effort to bring as hotel to the golf course fails, the course will go out of business, and the owner will look at other alternatives for that land, which is currently zoned for residential development.

Daley said the purpose of all the effort by the Planning Board and others is to make a hotel project possible, not impossible.

"It is important to me that we put something before the town that will actually get this thing built," Daley said. "The goal is to change what is going on at Waubeeka."

The Select Board voted 4-1, with Hogeland casting the lone vote in dissent , to support a plan that gives Waubeeka the ability to set aside 10 acres — less than 5 percent of the 207-acre property — for building development, caps the number of hotel rooms at 120, limits the building to three stories, and requires certain aesthetic standards.

According to Andrew Groff, Williamstown community development director, as it stands now, there will be two competing amendments to the citizens petition proposing the Waubeeka Overlay District.

One will be the Gardner Amendment offered by the Planning Board. The other will be what is being called there Acreage Amendment, which would be offered by the property owner with the support of the Select Board.

For either amendment to be attached to the citizen petition, it would have to win a simple majority of votes at Town Meeting. For the citizens petition seeking to change the zoning bylaw to pass, it would need a two-thirds majority of the vote.

Town Meeting is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Williamstown Elementary School.

According to Parese, the golf course is hosting an open house/information session for people who want to know more about the Waubeeka proposal at the clubhouse from 5 to 8 p.m. May 11. The public is invited.


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