The Millville Town Council on Tuesday, April 9, approved site plans for a miniature-golf course and ice cream shop on Route 26.
The project, called Millville Boardwalk, is being planned by Michael McCarthy, owner of Michael McCarthy Stones, whose family has owned businesses next to the proposed mini-golf site for more than 30 years. The project includes an 18-hole miniature-golf course, to be called Lighthouse Beach Golf, and an ice cream shop to be called Agape Creamery. The overall project will be known as Millville Boardwalk.
The project was recommended for council approval Feb. 1 by the town’s planning board, which at the time of the hearing was a three-member planning and zoning committee. It has since been expanded to a five-member planning and zoning commission.
Millville Town Hall was packed for the hearing on April 9, with a crowd that appeared to be overwhelmingly in favor of the project. When the 5-0 vote was taken to approve the plans, after an hour-long hearing, loud applause and whooping rang out in the meeting room.
Millville Town Solicitor Seth Thompson had pointed out at the beginning of the hearing that all uses proposed for the project were approved under the town’s C-1 zoning, which is the designated zoning for the site.
Attorney Robert Witsil, representing the project developers, called it “kind of a cool application” that was “a little bit different.” Witsil said there had been no letters in opposition to the project. Town Manager Deborah Botchie at the beginning of the meeting read one letter of support, whose author noted that, while he supported the project, he had spoken with neighbors who were not as enthusiastic.
Witsil also noted that the project had received approvals from the state Department of Transportation, the Soil Conservation District and the Office of the State Fire Marshal.
Millville Boardwalk will be located to the east of McCarthy Stones, on 4 acres of a 20-acre parcel owned by Robert Kauffman, for which the McCarthys have secured a long-term lease.
Part of the preliminary approval by the planning committee included an exception to allow parking in the front of the complex instead of the rear, as has been the rule for commercial properties in Millville for a number of years. Plans call for a course that is “very natural in style,” according to Witsil. “There won’t be any dinosaurs,” he said.
The course will have a beach theme, with nods to the nearby beach towns and to beach-related activities, such as surfing, fishing, crabbing and boating, according to project partner Joseph Garner. Indigenous plants will be used around the course, he said.
A 12-foot-wide boardwalk will be built across the front of the retail portion of the project. A 38-foot-tall lighthouse structure will house the check-in station for the miniature-golf course.
The ice cream shop will feature 16 rotating flavors of homemade, small-batch ice cream, according to Zachary McCarthy. There will be indoor and outdoor seating, with a screened porch, for ice cream shop customers, he said.
Some of those who packed the council meeting on April 9 joined council members in expressing concerns about lighting and noise from the new business, which would be open at 7 a.m. for coffee, with the miniature-golf course and ice cream shop being open until 11 p.m. during the summer season. Golf course patrons must start games by 10 p.m. and be off the course by 11 p.m.
Resident Jerry Edwards said he was happy that the McCarthys were not seeking a liquor license for the project, saying he is “proud that Millville is responding to such a plan as this.” Another resident, Holly Wingate, said she is pleased with the “very family-oriented” focus of the new business.
Lighting is being planned to be focused onto the golf course, using downward-facing, shielded lights, Garner said. “We are trying to keep light pollution as little as possible,” he said.
Speakers on the golf course playing “light background music” will be low to the ground, Garner added.
Future plans for the property include possible indoor amusements, such as electronic games. Zachary McCarthy said he is already planning special events for the new business, including a “First Responders’ Cookies & Cream Classic” in honor of the area’s emergency responders.
Witsil said the plan is for the complex to remain open as much of the year as is practical from a business standpoint. Garner said at the February hearing that the hope is to have the business open by mid-summer.