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Long IslandSuffolk

Brookhaven eyes new golf course zoning rules

Tallgrass Golf Course on Cooper Street in Shoreham

Tallgrass Golf Course on Cooper Street in Shoreham on March 1, 2013. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Brookhaven officials are teeing up a plan that they hope will save the town’s golf courses.

Town officials — who have seen a Shirley golf club close and another in Shoreham set to shut down — created a new zoning category last year intended to help courses remain open by making it more difficult to turn them into housing developments.

Officials said they plan to rezone town-owned courses in Yaphank and Rocky Point from residential to the new “golf course district” zoning, effectively barring construction of homes on those properties. They may rezone privately owned courses later.

The rezoning plan for the town-owned courses will be discussed at a public hearing at 6 p.m. on March 2 at Town Hall in Farmingville.

“We want to help the golf courses, but also preserve the commercial recreation, the pastoral vistas, any open spaces that the golf courses provide,” Councilman Dan Panico said. “Right now, these golf courses are zoned residential . . . and obviously, they’re not residential.”

Town officials became alarmed in recent years as some golf clubs closed or struggled to stay afloat. The Links at Shirley shut down in 2011 and became a housing development; an 18-hole course in South Setauket was reduced to nine holes to make room for homes, and Tallgrass Golf Course in Shoreham is expected to close this year to become a solar farm.

Besides the town-owned golf clubs, there are about eight other courses in Brookhaven, including two operated by the villages of Bellport and Port Jefferson, which would not be affected by the new zoning.

Doug Partrick, owner of Heatherwood, a Commack development firm, said the company added housing to its Manorville golf course and plans to do the same at a club in Centereach because the golf business is struggling. He blamed the problem on the time it takes to play 18 holes at a typical course.

“They’re very labor-intensive, and the interest in golf . . . has been waning over the years,” Partrick said. “It’s a money-losing proposition these days. . . . It’s challenging to get new, young members.”

Some Long Island golf clubs struggled in the wake of the 2008 recession, though most survived, said Douglas Vergith, executive director of the Long Island Golf Association in Mineola. He said rezoning clubs may not be necessary because the golf business has “improved significantly” since the recession.

Brookhaven officials had planned to rezone privately owned courses, but have shelved those plans after some course owners worried more restrictive zoning would make it more difficult for them to obtain bank loans.

“We don’t want to do anything that is going to make them struggle more,” Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto said.

Panico said officials will meet with course owners to determine how to protect clubs without instituting new obstacles. Those measures could include provisions that would make rezoning less onerous, Panico said.

“Brookhaven is a large town, and we should provide these types of commercial recreational activities for our residents,” he said. “So many [towns] have seen places overdeveloped.”

‘Golf course district’ zoning allows

Public and private golf courses

Country clubs

Nightclubs and bars

Catering halls

Clubhouses

Driving ranges

Miniature golf

Health clubs

Physical therapy

Restaurants

What is not allowed

Homes

Offices unrelated to the golf course

Retail stores

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