Mini Golf Proposal Sparks Spirited Discussion
The Planning & Zoning Commission will continue its public hearing of a proposed mini golf course and ice cream café application on Monday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. in Town Hall. The opening of the public hearing on Jan. 6 drew numerous speakers both for and against the proposal—as well as an official intervenor.
According to an application filed by 3 West Main, LLC, an 18-hole miniature golf course and an ice cream café is being proposed on a plot of vacant land on the north side of Route One bordering the Hammonasset River. According to Lyndsay Suter, the project architect, the café will be built on stilts to offer patrons a view of the wetlands and river. The café will have 49 seats and offer counter service.
News of the application generated substantial interest from Clinton citizens, which translated to a crowd of about 50 at the Jan. 6 public hearing. However, not every speaker at the hearing was in favor of the project, nor were they all from Clinton.
The site of the potential mini golf course is very close to the Madison border, and directly across the Hammonasset River from the Madison neighborhood of Windermere.
Ron Bodinson is a Windermere resident who has been named as an official intervenor on the application.
According to Kathy King, an official in the Clinton Land Use Office, “An intervenor is a person who files a petition to intervene” under Connecticut law. “They become a party to the proceeding and have the right to present evidence limited to environmental issues that are within the jurisdiction of the agency. So, with a wetlands commission, [the intervenor] would be to raise issues regarding impacts on wetlands but not air quality. In the context of PZCs, it only gives standing to raise environmental issues to the extent that the zoning regulations involves the environment. “
“I’m not against the project per se, it’s not my mission to kill this whole thing but to make it as good as it can be,” Bodinson said.
Bodinson told the Harbor News that what initially piqued his interest was the height of the light posts and type of lights that were originally going to be used in the application.
“I live on the river and can see where the back of the property is,” Bodinson said.
In documents submitted to the Land Use Office, Bodinson noted the adverse effects that manmade light could have on birds and aquatic animals in the area.
Project engineers agreed that they will consider lowering the height of the light posts on the property to 12 feet high, which they claim would not illuminate over the property line and would not be visible from Bodinson’s property.
Under the application, the café and mini golf course would not be built on a waterfront portion of the property. Instead, that portion of the applicant’s land would be transferred to the Clinton Land Conservation Trust (CLCT) for a kayak launch and drop-off area.
CLCT Chair Mike Houde told the Harbor News that there had been informal contact between the owner of the property and the trust about the idea. Houde said there was no concrete plan in place for the trust to take control of the property, but said he was intrigued by the idea.
Bodinson said that the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection has requirements that waterfront property be used for water-related activity. By giving the property to the land trust, Bodinson said he felt it was an attempt by the developers to skirt that requirement and suggested that more information should be provided about the potential transfer to the land trust.
Lurrae Lupone, the owner of the property, said that no dock or construction of any kind would be built on the river for the kayak launch. Instead there would just be a path to an area that is convenient to place the boats into the water.
The project engineer said that nothing will be built within 50 feet of the tidal wetlands and claims that the flora and fauna in the area would not be affected by the café and mini golf course.
The Public Hearing
While Bodinson said he isn’t officially against the application and doesn’t speak for the whole Windemere neighborhood, some of his neighbors attended to oppose the application.
Joan O’Neil, a Madison resident, spoke of concerns she had with the number of entrances to the development, the number of parking spaces, and the height of the light posts.
Terry Wilde, a Madison resident, stated that a previous mini golf course in the area had failed and suggested that an economic study of the area be done before any application is filed.
“We all know many restaurants have failed up and down the Post Road,” Wilde said.
The fact that some of the speakers who were not in favor of the project hailed from Madison irked some attendees of the hearing.
Clinton resident Phil Sengle told the Harbor News, “I think people from Madison have a lot of nerve coming here to tell Clinton what to do with a property.”
However, most speakers at the hearing were in favor of the application. Taylour Boucher said that the property would be a fun use for people in the area like himself who have young children.
“I think it’s a fantastic use,” Boucher said, while also citing the limited recreational opportunities in town.
Sengle spoke before the commission to argue that by approving the application it would allow Clinton to redevelop a portion of Route One while also drawing out-of-town visitors.
Dana Macmillan, a Guilford resident, stated that he had been asked to clean out the property in the past by the owner, and discovered that there were “transients” living on the property. Macmillan said he felt that created a dangerous situation and the proposed development would be an improvement and a draw due to the heavy traffic that passes through the area.
The Next Steps
The commission unanimously voted to continue the public hearing to Feb. 4. The commission asked the applicant to provide more details on its revised lighting plan and to answer questions relating to the lot size on the property. At the continuation the applicant will provide more information to the PZC and the public will be allowed to comment for or against the application based on the new information presented.