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Senecas' proposed golf course gets initial OK from Lewiston planners

Seneca Niagara Management presented preliminary plans Wednesday to the Town Planning Board for the 251-acre Hickory Stick golf course.

This championship-level course, with six lakes and a 15,000-square-foot clubhouse, would be open to the public, and the Senecas hope to open it in 2009, if all stays on course.

The first round went well with a packed house that was more curious than negative, and the Planning Board unanimously granted preliminary approval to the plan.

Hickory Stick, bounded by the Robert Moses Parkway and Pletcher and Creek roads, reworks and upgrades plans for a public golf course the town has considered for several years.

Seneca Niagara spokesman Philip Pantano said Hickory Stick is named for the locally threatened shellbark hickory trees, which are protected in the design of this course, and for golf clubs, which historically, he said, were made of wood such as hickory.

The course will protect 97 percent of the shellbark hickory trees, including 275 saplings. Just over a dozen trees that would have been disturbed were relocated recently to a protected area, according the project engineer Doug Eldred of BME Associates.

Several issues were brought up by residents, including traffic, drainage, greens fees and questions about whether the course would become Seneca land.

Also discussed was whether a 90-foot piece of property is owned by the Department of Transportation, which the Senecas have been negotiating with, or State Parks. Eldred said they would investigate the claim but said it should not affect their plans.

Eldred said traffic is not expected to change, with golf course traffic spread out throughout the day. He added that the proposed 40-home subdivision (part of the town proposal) has been removed, which will decrease traffic.

Drainage, long a problem in the area, is expected to benefit from the new golf course.

Eldred said ditches will be better defined and will be used to bring water to the property, and then storm water will be collected and used for the lakes.

Gary Paumen, Seneca Management Development project representative, said, "We're going to move the water. All the lakes are interconnected and move in a northern direction to keep the water moving and keep the water quality up. It also will help our irrigation system. There are no wells going in. We will need the water."

Michele Mitchell, assistant general counsel for Seneca Management Development, said the golf course would not and could not become sovereign land.

"We have no plans to take this land. We are aware this is Lewiston land," said Mitchell.

Mitchell said they have discussed a break in greens fees with the town supervisor and plan to offer reduced fees to Lewiston residents and their guests.

Planning Board member Joan W. Wolfgang proposed approval of the plan, saying, "We've seen this [golf course plan] so many times. We hope this is how it stays."

Former board member James Langlois received applause from the audience, saying, "I've been waiting for this day for 14 or 15 years. We spent a lot of time and money trying to get a course at Joseph Davis [State Park], which was shot down. I consider this a better course because it is taxable and someone else's money is being used. This is also a bigger and better course, and I look forward to playing before I'm not able to."

Another public hearing is scheduled at a Town Board meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 1. The public has until Feb. 19 to make comments.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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