A remodeled proposal for a miniature golf course in the Greenbelt District of Route 9G is now before town planners.
Ken Casamento of Gilbert Farm Recreation Center, at 950 Violet Avenue, was present before the Hyde Park Planning Board Feb. 19 for an amendment to a site plan originally approved in 2007 for several leisure sports projects.
According to Casamento, the plan was “set in phases” from the beginning, and was supposed to include a driving range, batting cages, a miniature golf course, a recreation building and a gymnastics business. Along the way, he told the Observer, the economy, neighborhood reaction and other factors resulted in the elimination of the batting cages and the gymnastics business from the plan.
The driving range and an office used for business are the only entities on the 77-plus acre site right now.
When it was first reviewed in 2006, the site plan mainly focused on a two-acre putt-putt style miniature golf course, according to Planning Board Chair Michael Dupree.
The amendment now under review proposes a mini golf course that is more similar to the feel of a full-size golf course, but one that will not increase the footprint in the original plan. The new design includes sand traps and turf and removes some of the items Dupree called “campy,” such as a windmill.
However, Casamento told the Observer that the current design is very similar to the initial plan other than its location and a water element. “A water feature was always going to be a big part of the course. Initially, there was going to be a fountain and now we are thinking more of a small pond with goldfish,” he said.
Casamento told the board he hopes to have late-night golfing in the summer, with proposed hours of operation from 10am to 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
One issue the board appeared to be concerned with right away was lighting.
Town Engineer Peter Setaro said that when finished, the course’s lights could not face Hidden Brook Estates, the mobile home park across Route 9G.
According to Zoning Administrator Kathleen Moss, when the application first went before the town planning and zoning boards in 2006, Hidden Brook took issue with the plans. She told the Observer the park residents were concerned that the proposed batting cages would be too noisy.
Noise studies were then conducted on the site at the request of the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals. Dupree told the Observer that the board then approved the site plan in 2007, “after ensuring that the recreation buildings [which were designed and approved for gymnastics] could not be converted into a video arcade or similar use, which…would generate much more traffic than gymnastics.”
According to Dupree, the owners of Hidden Brook then sued in Dutchess County Supreme Court, “claiming that the board failed to take a ‘hard look’ at impacts as required under SEQRA.” The court ruled in the board’s favor, “finding that the board did everything that could be reasonably expected in determining likely impacts and whether they would be significant,” he added.
Speaking for the planning board, Dupree said of the amended plan, “Our chief concern would be whether any new impacts exist to Hidden, and any impacts on nearby wetlands.”
Dupress and Casamento both noted that Hidden Brook residents are among those who use the driving range at Gilbert Farm.
Steve Kissel of Turnkey Property Management, which owns Hidden Brook, told the Observer that he had no knowledge of the amended site plan now before the planning board. But, he added, the biggest complaint in their lawsuit had been that Gilbert Farms was “talking about putting in 75-foot high poles and lighting.”
At its meeting, the planning board referred the application to the county’s planning department for review and set a public hearing for 7pm on March 19 at Town Hall. The applicant is expected to return to describe in greater detail the proposed mini golf course and where it will be located.