By Michelle Pelletier Marshall
---- — ROWLEY – Despite strong opposition from a couple residents, the Board of Selectmen last week unanimously approved a seasonal beer and wine license for Rowley Country Club.
In granting the license, selectmen pointed to the fact that there has been a liquor license at the property without complaints since the 1970s, and that the Board of Health, fire and police departments and the building inspector did not note any issues with granting a new license.
“If we thought for any reason this would become a barroom scene, we would not be for this license,” Selectman Stuart Dalzell said.
Selectman Joe Perry added that if the board declined the license, the appeals process through the state Alcohol Beverages Control Commission would be lengthy and costly for the town and would most likely result in the license being issued anyway since it has been with the property for more than 40 years.
Burton H. Page, the manager of the golf course at 235 Dodge Road, filed for the seasonal liquor license to offer golfers what he said they had come to expect after playing a round —a sandwich and a beer. Page said most golf courses provide the same service.
“The ability to be able to offer alcohol is very important to the success of the golf course,” he said.
The 89-acre golf course property was sold in January 2013 and a housing development with 18 duplex units is under construction on a portion of the site.
The project includes renovations to the clubhouse, which is set to serve light fare when the golf course reopens this spring. Food and beverages were previously available on the property at the Back Nine Tavern, which has since been torn down to make way for the housing development.
Page said the Back Nine Tavern had a full liquor license and also operated a function hall. The new license for the clubhouse is seasonal only. The clubhouse only will be open when the golf course is in play and will close at 9 p.m., earlier than the Back Nine Tavern did.
Opposition from abutters Nicole and Chris Thornton of 65 Emily Lane led selectmen at their March 18 public hearing to delay voting on the license. Since the hearing, selectmen visited the property to note the clubhouse’s proximity to the Thorntons’ home and considered the neighbors’ objections before reaching their decision.
The Thorntons said their main concern is that while the golf course was allowed to be considered open space for passive recreation in a bylaw approved in 2006, the permission to grant a liquor license on the property changed that passive use.
“I don’t see how the award of a liquor license does anything to further that intent,” Chris Thornton told selectmen last week. “In fact, I think there are plenty of reasons why you can say it takes away from that intent.”
Nicole Thornton said she felt a liquor license would create undue noise and encourage crowds to gather and linger to drink, putting children and those walking dogs in harm’s way when patrons who had been drinking left the clubhouse.
“And quite frankly, it’s not something I want in my backyard,” she said, adding that she believed her property value would be drastically affected by the license.
The Thorntons’ neighbors at 61 Emily Lane also opposed the license. But other neighbors, including abutter Cheryl Murtagh of 209 Dodge Road and Roy Brandano of 75 Emily Lane, supported the country club’s operation and the issuance of the license.
Selectmen ultimately gave their unanimous approval.
“We are condemning Mr. Page before giving him a chance to run his operation,” Selectmen Vice Chairman Bob Merry said. “He has to come back to us next year to renew the license. If there are any complaints at that time, we will take that into consideration before re-issuing the license.”