Windfarm Golf Range Owner Proposing Subdivision; Needs Commission Approval

By CHRIS BURRELL

After six years of battling controversy over his golf driving range in Oak Bluffs, owner Timothy Creato now wants the nets to come down and see houses go up.

His plan to turn the ten-acre Windfarm Golf range, west of the so-called blinker light, into a six-lot housing subdivision will have to win approval from the Martha's Vineyard Commission as a development of regional impact (DRI).

Mr. Creato did not return a telephone call from the Gazette yesterday.

His business has remained in the news for much of its existence as neighbors and many Islanders criticized the visual impact of the high nets erected around its periphery.

The subdivision plan came to the Oak Bluffs planning board earlier this month but was quickly sent to the commission for review as a DRI.

"If the subdivision is done appropriately, it would be much better than those nets which disturb the skyline," said Oak Bluffs selectman Roger Wey. "At this point, the concept seems to me like a good idea."

Back in 1996, commissioners approved Mr. Creato's application to transform the property into a driving range, a decision that some later regretted. That same year, Mr. Creato had convinced Oak Bluffs voters to change the zoning bylaws in town to allow recreational use in the area that was previously zoned residential.

But within weeks of opening the range, trouble started. Elisha Smith, a farmer who lives next to Windfarm, complained that golf balls were landing on his property and pelting his cows.

That's when the nets went up, first 40-foot high and then 70-foot high, in an attempt to contain the rain of balls onto Mr. Smith's farm and cattle.

New, higher nets soon led to more controversy as Islanders and Oak Bluffs selectmen complained about the project's visibility from much of the Lagoon Pond area - nets sticking up above the tree line.

Two years ago, Mr. Creato appeared before the Martha's Vineyard Commission, seeking approval to expand his food service operation, store boats on the property and host wedding receptions and corporate parties.

The MVC rejected the request, citing continued opposition by neighbors to the driving range as a whole and any increased activity there.

Finally, last year Windfarm Golf became a player in the Down Island Golf Club saga. Developers for the proposed golf club in the southern woodlands had offered to buy the Windfarm driving range and then turn it over to the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank for conversion to conservation land.

That deal was never struck because it hinged on approval of the whole golf club plan in front of the Martha's Vineyard Commission.

In 1996, when Mr. Creato brought his driving range plan to the MVC, Mr. Smith supported the proposal, arguing that it was far better than the obvious alternative - houses.

"It's a great thing . . . rather than build eight or 10 houses. When they build houses, they all bring their pollutants," he said in 1996 at a commission hearing.

That same year, Mr. Creato urged Oak Bluffs voters to back the zoning change, saying that his golf range would preserve open space as an alternative to a subdivision.

Former occupants of the land operated the Windfarm Museum, an educational center devoted to informing visitors about energy efficiency. The museum, run by Peter and Geraldine Tailer, closed in 1992.