WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- A future developer of a 120-unit "country inn" at the Waubeeka Golf Links would be able to locate the lodging buildings deep into the course -- say, in the driving range -- at least a thousand feet off U.S. Route 7, if Town Meeting voters approve on Tuesday either proposals to give new zoning flexibility to owner Michael Deep.
The option to site the lodging facility in the driving range is possible because of a key word used in both the "Acreage Amendment" recommended by selectmen as well as the "Square Footage" (or Gardner) amendment recommended by the Planning Board. Each allow a developer to designate a 10-acre piece of the 203-acre golf-course site as an "Building Envelope." The piece for lodging construction has to be a single piece, and some of it has to include a 2.5-acre parcel in the northeast corner of Waubeeka, alongside New Ashford Road (Route 7). But the rest of the building area can be anywhere on the property so long as it reaches into the northeast corner -- in language of the amendments -- is "contiguous" or touching the northeast quadrant.
Stan Parese, attorney for owner Mike Deep, has emphasized in presentations the potential for up-to-three-story lodging buildings in the northeast corner of the site because it is 5-10 feet below the grade of Route 7, and in theory less obtrusive. Concept plans drawn by architect David Westall show the northeast-corner site. An alternate location on the golf course has not come up recently in public. Other portions of the property -- such as the driving range -- would be 20 or 30 feet above Route 7, and thus potentially more visible to it, but also farther away from passing cars. At a higher elevation, views for guests could also be more spectacular.
The alternate site was first noted in a blog post on GreylockNews.com by a part-time Williamstown resident who did not want his name used because he does not want to inject himself into the discussion of the future of Waubeeka. The resident -- who has computer skills -- usedGoogle Maps to illustrate the driving-range site (above). In a follow-up email exchange, the part-time resident said:
" . . . I think the acreage-controlled draft will result in a hotel going in on the current driving range. The 10-acre limit includes both the hotel envelope and whatever buildings/parking are needed for the golf operations. The current size of the golf operations is about two acres, which leaves 8 acres to work with somewhere on the property. The driving range is about that size. As a comparison, the Berkshire Mountain Lodge (a 146-unit timeshare property in Pittsfield) takes up about six acres. The (126-room) Williams Inn is about three acres. The Clark is about 20 acres. I think those comparisons help give a picture of what 10 acres would produce.
HUGE WINDFALL FOR DEEP?
" . . . My other point is that by providing this overlay, the Town is giving Mike Deep a huge windfall for the value of that property. Waubeeka is worth a lot more with the ability to build a hotel than it currently is today. There's nothing stopping him from selling the whole facility once the overlay goes through, and I suspect that that is exactly what he'll do. That's speculation on my part, but it's worth considering because no matter what the feeling in town about Mike Deep or Waubeeka, the simple truth of the matter is that ownership of that property can change in a heartbeat."
As Williamstown voters prepared for Tuesday's town-meeting vote on the Waubeeka rezoning, there were these developments:
- A Williams College official replied to a query from GreylockNews.com, asking the school to comment on worries that its employees might feel concern at town meeting in voting contrary to the college's interests or positions. Said James Kolesar, a college spokesman: " . . . [C]olleges, including Williams, are by no means in short supply of public criticism from their employees, and that's how it should be." Williams is appealing to voters to approve an up-to-100-room hotel it proposes for the bottom of Spring Street, to replace the Williams Inn, which would be razed.
- The Planning Board declared on a 5-0 vote that it finds no evidence of an Open Meeting Act violation in its deliberations leading up to a 3-2 approval of the so-called “Gardner amendment” proposing a 60,000-square-foot limitation on the size of a Waubeeka lodging development. The response was to an allegation its deliberations were improper. The claim was made by Williamstown resident David Leja in a letter received by the town on May 9 – they day before Gardner lost in a bid to be elected to the Planning Board.
- Thousands of Williamstown residents appeared to have received a postal mailing from Waubeeka Golf Links appealing for support at Town Meeting for its zoning amendment. The mailing does not say what will be developed if the zoning is approved and makes statements about tax benefits that have been disputed by opponents.