Mini-golf course proposal hits the sweet spot with planning board

By Ben Holbrook | Apr 15, 2014

Belfast — Planning board members approved a permit for a small mini-golf course located on Route 1 that could be open as early as June.

The mini-golf course will be located at 18 Searsport Ave. and is sited in the city's Route 141 and Mill Lane commercial zoning district.

Applicant Jason Thurston said in addition to the mini-golf course, he would also have a small building on the property that will serve as a gift shop where he will sell Maine “crafty-type” items made by family members.

Thurston said the course can be constructed on an existing slab on the property and he will be able to use the large asphalt area for parking. According to his application, Thurston proposes having 25 parking spaces with two handicap spaces available.

While no members of the public spoke in favor or against the proposed mini-golf course during a public hearing, City Planner Wayne Marshall and Assistant City Planner Sadie Lloyd said comments were submitted via mail and e-mail.

The comments from neighbors primarily addressed concerns regarding noise and lighting. Thurston was asked if there would be music playing on the course, which there will be, and how much lighting will be provided.

Thurston said in terms of music, he would have a two or three speakers located in the center of the course that would provide background music for players. He said the volume of the music would allow for players to have a normal conversation with each other, and he doubted the music would be audible beyond the perimeter of the course.

In regards to lighting, Thurston said almost all of the lighting would be solar powered, and he envisioned six or seven eight-foot lights to illuminate the course, as well as smaller, low-level lights, similar to what can be purchased at Wal-Mart, to illuminate the ground to prevent customers from tripping.

The concerns about noise and lighting prompted a question from board chair Paul Hamilton who asked about operating hours, and commented that the business would be seasonal in nature.

Thurston replied that the mini-golf course would ideally be open in mid-April; however, he acknowledged that due to the unpredictable nature of Maine weather, it would be more realistic to open in May. The course would then stay open through the summer before closing for the season at the end of October.

He said the course would probably be open until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., which would allow Thurston to close by no later than 10 p.m.

When asked what the design aesthetic for the course would be, Thurston said he wants it to be Maine-themed with a small lighthouse, and possibly lobster boats and lobster traps.

A comment was made that the course is fairly flat and does not have a great deal of topography. Thurston agreed and said the intent is to utilize small inclines, such as one going into the lighthouse on the course.

Discussion then focused on the accessibility of the property by people on bicycles or on foot. Marshall pointed out there are no crosswalks or sidewalks leading to the property. While the issue generated comments from planning board members, they ultimately agreed that the addition of sidewalks or crosswalks would be an issue for the city and not the applicant.

Before Thurston's presentation ended, he asked the planning board to hold a special meeting prior to their next regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, April 23, to vote on granting a permit for the project. Thurston explained he wanted to begin construction of the mini-golf course as soon as possible so that he could open by June.

That prompted Marshall to suggest the planning board vote on granting a permit Wednesday night; however, that suggestion came with a warning from Marshall to Thurston. Marshall stated that while the project could be granted a permit, if someone appealed the decision by the planning board, it could impact Thurston's ability to open his business this summer.

With that being said, planning board members voted in favor of the project.

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Ben Holbrook
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Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.

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