Meadowbrook driving range clears first commission

Melissa Norman and Christopher M Marcum
Planning Commissioner Melissa Norman speaks with Meadowbrook Golf Course owner Christopher Marcum at Wednesday's meeting.

A proposed two-story driving range at Meadowbrook Golf Course cleared its first hurdle for development and could be the key to keeping the course running. 

The Alachua County Planning Commission voted 5-3 on Wednesday to approve a major amendment on the property that would combine existing amenities of the golf course into one building. The meeting lasted four hours with only one item of discussion and several parties speaking. 

The new facility would house driving range bays along with food and drink service like the one operated at the golf clubhouse in the past. 

The business could operate at night with glow in the dark golf balls and targets. Tracer technology would also show the golf ball path and where it hits on TVs in the bays. 

Christopher Marcum, owner of Meadowbrook, said the new facility would allow him to keep the business financially viable. He told the commission that the course had flooded five times in the last six years for a minimum of 14 days each time. 

After Hurricane Elsa in July 2021, the golf course stayed closed. 

“For me, the only way the course is sustainable is if we can come to a golf course use stream of revenue on the high part of the property,” Marcum said. 

He said this would allow the course to generate revenue and keep staff employed when flooding closes parts of the course. 

Staff approved the amendment with some conditions. Marcum agreed with many conditions but wanted to keep current plans for the number of bays and hours of operation. 

Marcum proposed 26 bays while county staff pegged the number at 18. Staff also wanted to cut the closing time by one hour—closing at 10 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. 

Staff conditions also required a netting around the driving range, no amplified sound, a wastewater study during the developmental plan review and keeping a current copse of trees. 

The first staff condition would close the driving range facility if the golf course stops operating, and staff will work with the owner to nail down wording on the section. 

The golf course intertwines with a residential community—Meadowbrook at Gainesville. Many in the community expressed similar concerns that staff addressed. One community objection concerns parking. 

The golf course has a partial easement on a 92-space parking lot used for the community clubhouse along with 10 extra lots. The shared parking lot provides access to the private roads of the community that have gates at two other entrances. 

Residents worried the new driving range would clog parking and potentially increase traffic within the community. Some residents said the community already faced issues of golfers parking within the neighborhood in the past. 

The driving range facility could mean lowered property value, according to some residents—with tall netting and the facility ruining the golf course view. But without the new driving bays, the golf course might not operate which would also drive down home value. 

Commissioner Raymond Walsh moved the staff’s recommendation while amending the number of bays to 26 at Commissioner James Ingle’s request, and directing staff to not include the current 92-space parking lot in its study. 

After amending its proposal with staff and finishing the development plan, the proposal will go before the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners for final approval.

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