WESTWARDS – After more than six hours of deliberations and hearings, the Planning Board has approved and recommended passage of the proposed zoning bylaw changes requested by the owner of Winnapaug Golf Club. The matter now passes to the city council, which has the final say on changes to the regulations.

The board issued its advisory opinion at the end of its meeting on August 2. The council announced and scheduled a public hearing for Aug. 15 on bylaw changes, also known as zoning enactment amendments, but an attorney for Winn Properties LLC, the golf club’s owner, acknowledged at the Aug. 2 meeting. August that the council hearing may need to be postponed to ensure that the public has adequate legal notice of the proposed zoning changes, which were amended by council after the publication of legal notices announcing the hearing of August 15.

The new regulations are intended to guide the development of hotels and suites as accessory uses on golf courses and yacht clubs currently within the city’s commercial recreation area. Winn Properties LLC requested the Zoning Text Amendments requesting definitions and development standards for potential hotels in the zone and proposed language for both.

Nick Scola, director of Winn Properties LLC, discussed restoring the historic course and said the company needed the capacity to build a hotel, small suites, a new clubhouse with a banquet hall and housing for workers to remain financially viable.

During the hearings, which began July 19 and ran through August 2, board members and residents questioned how Scola’s plans for a hotel and other amenities could be considered incidental. at the golf course. Residents and board members also questioned whether public access to the course would remain intact, despite a promise from Scola. They also wondered why so much development would be needed to make the course sustainable.

Residents also developed concept plans which Scola and a team of experts discussed. The actual plans have not been filed because without the changes to the zoning text, most of the project could not go ahead.

Scott Levesque, council counsel, asked council members to focus on the proposed changes to the text rather than delve into the concept plans.

“I don’t want you to consider an actual project. We don’t know the scale and mass at this time. Your concerns are good, but they are not at this time,” Lévesque said.

A resident, Bill Donavan, spoke out in favor of the Scolas.

“It’s an opportunity to preserve something that we’ll never have again,” Donavan said.

Keep Westerly Green member Ken Julian said the group was open to building a hotel on the golf course, but only if it was ancillary to the golf course. Nina Rossomando, who is also a member of Keep Westerly Green, described being hit in the stomach by an errant golf shot while gardening in her yard, which is adjacent to the Winnapaug course. She said building hotel suites on the course would put customers at risk.

Thomas J. Liguori Jr., the attorney representing Winn Properties LLC, pushed back hard on many of the residents’ comments. He noted that many of the criticisms reflected a misunderstanding of city government and the process used by the planning board and city council. He also wondered how people living near a golf course could be surprised to encounter golf balls.

“Not a house, not a building lot, not a residence was in place before it was a golf course. You buy a house on West Fairway Avenue and come here and complain about golf balls. There is a certain injustice there,” Liguori said.

The council voted 6 against 1 in favor of the modifications of the text as edited by the council and 6 against 1 in favor of issuing a favorable opinion to the Municipal Council. Board member Richard Constantine voted against. Board members Justin Hopkins, Christopher K. Lawlor, Kevin Lowther, Joseph M. Montesano, Andrew Delisio and Tabitha Harkin voted in favor of both motions.