The Canal Winchester Times

Council says no to golf course shelter house

Residents say they want permanent clubhouse promised when golf course development was built

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A new shelter house will not be built at the Westchester Golf Course.

Canal Winchester City Council voted unanimously April 15 to reverse a planning and zoning commission decision that would have allowed construction of the shelter house.

Westchester Golf Course representatives requested a variance last month to allow them to build a shelter house, considered an accessory structure, without a primary structure on site.

Resident Corey Berta appealed that decision to council, saying it violated a part of city code that requires a primary structure on a property before secondary structures are allowed.

For the past 15 years, because there isn't a clubhouse, the course has installed a large, temporary tent for use during golf outings and other events. In recent years though, storms have damaged the tent, which led to the request for the variance.

A dozen residents turned out for council's public hearing on the appeal, all of them against the shelter house. They instead asked that development owner Charles Ruma follow through on what they believe were promises of an actual clubhouse and other amenities.

"I don't think we're asking Mr. Ruma to build Augusta here, but his trailers don't make us proud. This is an embarrassment to the community," resident Jim Bohnlein said.

Former mayor Jeff Miller provided an original brochure he obtained when he purchased land 16 years ago to build his home as a part of the golf course development.

"This brochure shows where the clubhouse would be built and it was from this map where I chose to build my house. I made that purchase based on that and another drawing that was created," Miller said. "Since then, I've waited and waited for the clubhouse to be built."

Currently, the Westchester Golf Course has four accessory structures, two of which are pole barns and two are temporary trailers housing the course staff and bathrooms.

"The parking lot has potholes and no parking lines, the cart paths are all beat up, you have to stand a certain way in the bathroom so you don't fall through the floor and there are port-a-pots out on the course so people standing in their houses see golfers going to the bathroom," resident TJ Harper said. "Tell Mr. Ruma to sell it or invest in it. He's got to put a principal structure in place."

Council members echoed the residents' anger, with member Leah Turner asking the city staff to draft an ordinance that would prevent the golf course from reinstalling another tent for year-round use.

According to Development Director Lucas Haire, this legislative change wouldn't be possible for this year but could be considered for future years.

Currently, a business can apply administratively for a permit to allow the use of a temporary tent -- as long as it is not used for the sale of goods -- at a cost of $25 plus any necessary building permit costs, Haire said.

"I play a lot of golf and I don't know of any other course in central Ohio that has used modular trailers for 17 years as their office, so I hope there's a message coming out of this," Councilman Steve Donahue said.

Ultimately, the Westchester Golf Course chose to retract its request for a variance. Representative Paul Vollmer said he expects officials will choose to rent a tent again this season and re-evaluate a new, permanent building in the future.

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