After nearly 20 years in operation, the Westchester Golf Course may see some changes if new zoning text is adopted that will no longer allow the use of a tent as the primary shelter on the course.
Canal Winchester City Council held a public hearing about the proposed zoning text changes Oct. 7. The changes include limiting the use of tents for special events to a total of 18 days per year and limiting the size of the tent to 200 square feet total. The changes, if enacted, also address building and fire code issues and inspections.
"A lot of events and associations put tents up, like for festivals and Christmas tree sales," Development Director Lucas Haire said. "Some that are being used are being made more permanent. We've had tents blow over and there is deterioration that takes place when the tents are up for a long time, which is a public safety concern."
The Canal Winchester Planning and Zoning Commission approved the zoning text language at its September meeting.
Westchester Golf Course owner Charles Ruma said he believes the changes are specifically aimed at shutting down his business.
"We have a tent that is typically used for our outings, which are about 20 percent of the business and represents about $150,000 in annual revenue," Ruma said. "I've operated the course for 20 years and we don't have a permanent clubhouse because I haven't had any one year where we've had a profit."
Ruma said if the golf course loses that $150,000 because he can't use the tent, "It will be devastating to my operation."
He was granted a variance last spring to allow construction of a shelter house, considered an accessory structure, without a primary structure.
However, after resident Corey Berta appealed the planning and zoning decision to city council, Ruma withdrew the application and once again erected the temporary tent.
Ruma did not attend an April hearing on the issue, but residents who had purchased homes as a part of the golf course development presented city council with brochures that included renderings of a permanent clubhouse.
Former mayor Jeff Miller testified that he'd been promised the clubhouse would be built when he chose to buy in the community.
During the Oct. 7 public hearing, Ruma said that promise was never made.
Council President Steve Donahue asked Ruma if he were aware of any other golf course in central Ohio that does not have a permanent clubhouse.
"I can't think of any that have had a tent for 15-17 years," Donahue said.
Ruma said he knows of others, but was unable to name another golf course without a permanent clubhouse. Several council members said, as avid golfers, they also were unaware of any other examples.
"We have plans for a clubhouse and we continue to try to figure out how to get something more permanent, but we're talking $500,000 or more," Ruma said. "We shouldn't have to force a zoning change just aimed at changing Westchester."
Brian Ritchey, president of O'Neil Tents in Canal Winchester, said he's concerned that the zoning text changes have not taken into consideration other commercial tent uses or newer tent-type structures that meet building codes.
"This addresses temporary shelter for event attendees but doesn't speak to commercial use, like some companies that use a temporary structure to store inventory, such as what we did with TS Trim while they were constructing their new building," Ritchey said. "The state of Ohio allows 180 days of use of a tent and in my experience, most city ordinances have adopted that standard."
Ruma asked the city to consider what Ritchey said, and extend the time the tent can be up on the golf course to 180 days to match the state standard.
Council heard a first reading of the new zoning text and did not ask for any amendments, including those suggested by Ruma and Ritchey.
Two more readings are expected before a final vote Nov. 4.