After making numerous demands, the City Council unanimously approved a site plan request by the Monday for an expansion that includes the addition of a six-bedroom dormitory for interns, the upgrade of its paddle tennis courts and a new maintenance barn to replace one that burned.
Hidden in the discussion is that the club will be one of the first, if not the first, in Michigan to offer intern housing on club grounds. The building will have room for six interns studying for college degrees related to fields such as turf management, hospitality and other aspects of operating a golf course and country club.
The site plan request was related to construction of a maintenance barn to replace a building that burned in 2010, but the discussion broadened to other expansion plans at the country club.
Some members of the council complained about the way the new buildings and facilities would look and how they would mar the views of nearby residents. Some of the council's demands, mainly screening of an existing pump house on the course, were seen as unreasonable, if not unfair, by Councilman Louis Theros because the pump house was not part of the site plan request. Yet council members, including Martin West, who lives within view of the golf course and pump house, made approval contingent on screening it from neighbors' view. West is also a member of the club. Planting trees around the pump house was one request the country club could not meet due to trees blocking access to the pump house.
"It's like we got them in here now so we're going to make them do all this," Theros said. "We're going to hold them hostage on site plan for the maintenance building...to do something to the pump house."
While some council members said their main concern was protecting nearby residents, the country club, which is a healthy taxpayer to the city, met every other request of the council, including changing the paint color of the maintenance barn, a choice called "shocking" at a prior council meeting.
The club's superintendent, Bob McCurdy, said at Monday's meeting that the color would be muted khaki gray and match the dormitory. McCurdy, who appeared with CCD general manager Mark Petzing, also said more landscaping and trees would be added to hide buildings or parts of the course seen as unsightly. The plan calls for forty-five 6- to 8-foot-tall spruces, some planted on a 3-foot berm. The club, a 99-year-old organization, also agreed to mitigate dust during the laying of a new blacktop roadway.
The additional screening would shield the lights and courts of a resurfaced paddle tennis area.
The appropriateness of a dormitory was raised at last month's council meeting. At the council's request, McCurdy and Petzing provided background research Monday on other courses that offer housing for interns. They said the club would follow the best practices of these other courses and provide a place for Michigan graduates to launch careers.
Concerns with the dorm centered on opening a multi-residential dwelling, something akin to apartments.
One resident of Provencal Road across from the country club objected to the dorm at Monday's meeting. She said it may be a security threat and the residents may be an irritant, if not more, to the neighborhood.
Public Safety Director Daniel Jensen said, "At this point I don't have too severe of concerns." He said the police have an "excellent working relationship as far as security, noise and anything else….If it becomes a party house or an animal house, any resident can call and complain–we'll be right over."
Petzing tried to reassure the resident and anyone else who might be concerned.
"It's a dormitory, but it's for professional intern housing," he said.
"These are individuals who are looking to do this as a profession," he said. "There could be mistakes. However, if anything happens they're evicted from the dorm."
Petzing also said additional security will be added.
"If it's a party atmosphere they go away," he said.
McCurdy followed up, saying, 'there will be six and only six, one person per bedroom. Basically there's a zero tolerance mandate from us. Basically, if you're a distraction you're gone."