Mini-golf approved in Bethany Beach

In a second extended session on the application, Bethany Beach Board of Adjustments members unanimously approved on Nov. 6 the granting of a special exception for a property at Central Boulevard and N. Pennsylvania Avenue to be operated as a miniature-golf business.

The 3-0 decision came with several restrictions: (1) Lighting to be shielded and shaded from neighbors; (2) hours of operation to be constrained between 10 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. (all customers off the property and lights off); (3) noise to be kept within legal limits of the town’s existing noise ordinance; and (4) an 8-foot, solid fence to be erected on the western side of the property, to protect the neighbors there from errant golf balls, as well as noise and light.

The final restriction will require an additional Board of Adjustments hearing, to consider a variance that would allow the 8-foot fence requested by the property’s western neighbors – one of two immediately neighboring parcels for the corner lot, both residential – as well as to consider input from the property’s northern neighbor, who requested a fence of 4 to 6 feet in height, maximum.

The Board of Adjustments is required to file the written, final version of its decision with in 30 days. That point also commences the legal appeal period for the decision. And there is expected to be an appeal in the case, with continuing objections to the project from both the Disciples of Christ church (which owns the property on the opposite side of Central Boulevard) and a nearby neighbor, the Arbaugh family.

Both parties together have retained an attorney who at the Nov. 6 continuation of the original Oct. 24 hearing said he questioned whether the Board of Adjustments was empowered to grant a special exception on the basis of mini-golf qualifying as a “similar game of skill” under existing special exception legislation allowing bowling alleys and pool or billiard uses. The opposing parties contend that the use should be spelled out specifically in town code as eligible for an exception, or as a permitted use, rather than being subject to the interpretation of the BoA on whether it qualifies as a “similar game of skill.”

After a rejection of her initial plan for townhomes on the property, owner Carol Schultze has said she hopes to have the tentatively named Bethany mini-golf, with a possible pirate theme, open by summer of 2007.