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Waubeeka Golf Links owner Mike Deep believes a hotel could keep the course open.
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The northeast corner of the Waubeeka property is being considered a likely location.

Williamstown Planning Board Encourages Waubeeka Hotel Proposal

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Waubeeka owner Michael Deep was asking the Planning Board on Tuesday for support in pursuing a hotel development.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Planning Board on Tuesday encouraged the owner of Waubeeka Golf Links to continue looking at whether he could situate a hotel on his Route 7 property.
Michael Deep came to the board to ask whether it would be in favor of creating a zoning change that would allow a developer to operate a hotel on the site, currently zoned in the Rural Residential District.
While the board stopped short of taking a vote in favor of the proposition, several members expressed their support in principle for the project. And the panel directed Town Planner Andrew Groff to work with Deep and his attorney, Stanley Parese, to develop possible zoning changes for the board to consider at its October. meeting.
Deep is a long way from seeing the project come to fruition.
Any proposed zoning change would be vetted in at least one public hearing and ultimately would have to be approved by town meeting. Even if the zoning change was approved, he would still need to find a hotel developer interested in creating a resort on the site and figure out how how to build one in an area that Parese described as having a lot of clay soils.
And the zoning change itself could come in the form of an allowance by special permit, which would open the project up to the scrutiny of the Zoning Board of Appeals.
But, Deep and Parese said, it all starts with the Planning Board.
"If you say no, we're done," Deep said.
"Mike is of a mind, and I agree, that to have a serious conversation with [developers], they need to know there is a possibility to do it from a zoning standpoint," Parese said.
And without another revenue stream on the Waubeeka property, it is unlikely Deep will be able to continue to keep the golf course open, he said.
Deep described the 18 months he has owned the course as "the best year and a half of my whole life." But Waubeeka is losing money.
"I'm going to hang on as long as I can," he said. "How long can I do it for? I don't know. I don't know how long I can last.
"Waubeeka was built in 1966. It may have made money in the '90s during the Tiger Woods boom. But [previous owner] Mr. Goff lost more than I lost so far. I'm catching him, but I don't want to."
Deep said he had only a vague idea of how large a hotel he wanted to build on the property. He said a three-story building on the property's northeast corner would have an elevation comparable to the current clubhouse because that part of the land sits 10 feet below the grade of the clubhouse and current parking lot.
"A developer will have a very clear and strong opinion about what is the right number [of rooms]," Parese said. "At this early stage, I wouldn't pretend to know what that number is but it's not a huge number. There's not a 500-room hotel on the horizon."
That said, no one in the Selectmen's Meeting Room on Tuesday night had any illusions that the project would sail through town government without opposition.
Deep was late for Tuesday's meeting because he was coming from a meeting with the board of the South Williamstown Community Association, where, he said, residents had, "tough questions" for him.
And Planning Board member Carol Stein-Payne reminded the room of the battle 11 years ago over a proposal to extend the town's water line into South Williamstown.
"This is going to be a very difficult project," Stein-Payne said.
She and several members of the five-person board expressed support for the concept of making zoning changes that will help an existing business and recapture some of the character that the town's Five Corners district once had.
One argument that resonated with the board: Parese's discussion of the former Idlewild Hotel that once stood at the intersection.
"There's a very human tendency to believe that what you see now is the pinnacle of human existence," Planning Board member Chris Winters said, alluding to the fact that the neighborhood's current state is not as it always has been.
"I won't presume to speak for the owners of the Store at Five Corners or the Green River Farm store ... but to the extent those businesses have been fragile, I think it would be a worthwhile exercise to look at how do we create an environment that encourages sustained economic viability at a scale we want down there," Parese said.
Deep told the Planning Board that he intended to pursue a building of which the town would be proud. And he said he envisions the hotel's pool and tennis courts being used by residents of Williamstown, North Adams and Lanesborough.
He also noted that the town only stands to benefit from a strong business on the Waubeeka property.
"I don't know what $20 million in assessed value generates in taxes, but I think the town of Williamstown will make some great taxes," Deep said. "Right now, we've got a significant handful of employees, and they're not all low-paying jobs. You know we're a good citizen of the community and only want to be a better citizen.
"I don't know how much money it would be in room taxes, but I think the town of Williamstown would welcome that."

Tags: commercial development,   golf course,   motels, hotels,   waubeeka,   zoning,   

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