2008-07-31 / Front Page

Golf course abutters looking for say on several course issues

By Donna K. Drago

Several residents who live near the Jamestown Golf Course asked the Town Council Monday night to help them resolve some issues they are having with the golf course management.

The group was there to support John Plowden, a Calvert Place abutter of the course, who wrote to the council asking them to reestablish a golf course oversight committee to facilitate communication between the town and the lease-holders of the town-owned golf course property. Plowden was on the agenda to speak about the matter in the public forum.

Plowden said that the matter began last year when Joe Mistowski, manager of the course, planted three cedar trees "where no trees had been." Plowden said he tried to talk to Mistowski to seek a solution to the trees that were blocking his view of the course, but he received "silence from management."

Plowden said he was concerned that there was no master plan for improvements on the course, nor was there a procedure for resident input.

During the public forum, several additional residents spoke on the matter. Shawn Mayers of Whittier Road said it was "more than just views," that concerned her. She said the town-owned property was "a valuable asset," and that the people of Jamestown "need some input from time to time."

Corrine Colarusso of Calvert Place said that making the issue about private views "trivializes our concerns." She said when she had concerns last year, she had been directed to speak to Town Planner Lisa Bryer, who, she said did not respond to her.

Bill Munger, who owns property behind the police station across the street from the golf course, said that he supported a golf course advisory committee to "protect the views we enjoy so much." He called the views across the course, looking from Conanicus Avenue, "Fabulous!"

Joe Mistowski was in the audience and asked to address the council about the residents' concerns. He described a time some 20 years ago when North Main Road was visible from the course. "It was a liability nightmare," Mistowski said, adding, "we lost about two windshields a week," before some strategic planting of trees was done.

Mistowski described the Jamestown Golf Course as flat and somewhat boring without the trees. Over the past few years, Mistowski said he has cut down some 125 trees and has replanted many new ones in the same places. "In 22 years, we haven't had many problems," Mistowski said, "until we get into the tree business." He reiterated that trees he's recently planted are in the original places, where trees were removed, or were put there "to deal with liability issues."

Mistowski said that his liability insurance premiums have increased from $6,000 to $40,000 per year since he's run the golf course. There were some trees planted to preserve the only dogleg hole on the course, Mistowski noted.

"Three cedar trees, that's all this is about," Mistowski said about the drive to create an oversight committee.

The council was in general agreement that creating another committee would not solve the problem of communication between the town, the residents and the lease holders. They tasked Town Administrator Bruce Keiser with being the liaison between the abutters and the golf course managers.

Keiser said he had met with residents several times and cited the lease document as being the "master plan" that details capital improvements. The document, Keiser said, identifies "general locations" for the planting of new trees, and outlines capital improvements for the life of the lease. Keiser called the neighborhood problems a matter of "playability versus liability," and said that in a competitive business, the managers have to make decisions that allow them to stay competitive.

Councilwoman Barbara Szeptowski asked Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero if the town could change anything in the already-negotiated lease with 18 years left. Ruggiero said that any changes would have to be by agreement and could not be decided unilaterally.

In other business, the Town Council:

• Voted to approve vendor permits for the St. Mark Church Summer Festival on Aug. 23 and the Jamestown Yacht Club's Fools Rules' Regatta, also on Aug. 23. The regatta application included a request for two portable restrooms, which were also approved. Councilman Mike White requested that one of the two portable restrooms be handicap accessible.

• Approved one day peddler licenses for Longade LLC to sell frozen lemonade at the Aug. 8 Skatefest event, with the proceeds going to the Teen Center. Longade LLC also received a license to sell lemonade at the Fools' Rules Regatta, with the proceeds going to the Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force. A third application, for Kingstown Pizza to sell pizza during the Aug. 8 Skatefest, was denied because council members felt that giving the license to an out-of-town for profit business would be in conflict with supporting local establishments.

• A Ft. Getty one-day entertainment license was approved for the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce, who asked to have a band perform at the Aug. 15 "Gettywood" event.

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