By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin
ALEXANDRIA, Ind. — For the second time this year, the Alexandria Board of Zoning Appeals Monday night denied Yorktown farmer Dale Rinker's petition to grow corn and soybeans on the former Yule Golf Club property.
The board heard testimony from both sides for more than an hour before voting — Rinker and his team of experts on one side, homeowners and their attorney, Kevin Eads, on the other.
In a six-question finding of facts prepared before they took a vote, BZA members determined that agricultural use of the golf course property would be detrimental to area homeowners, does not conform to the underlying residential zoning of the property, and would affect traffic in the neighborhood.
With that, the board voted against granting the special exception Rinker sought.
But that decision doesn't mean the golf course will ever be reopened, nor does it mean the matter is closed.
Rinker has 30 days to appeal the BZA's decision to Madison Circuit Court. And a request to rezone the entire parcel is still pending before Alexandria planning authorities, said Rinker's attorney, Tom Beeman.
Rinker bid just under $1 million for the 156-acre golf course at 800 S. Harrison St. last October.
Dr. Robert McCurdy put the 18-hole landmark course up for sale because it was losing money. Rinker's purchase was a source of controversy, especially considering the course's status as an Alexandria landmark for more than 45 years.
Residents of Yule Estates, a housing addition that runs along a stretch of Fairway Drive, testified among other things that already poor drainage would become worse if crops were grown on the land. In addition, they said, a farm operation would lower property values.
"Folks who live on Fairway Drive will literally be surrounded, living in a sea of corn or (soy) beans," said one woman before the board voted. "Who wants to buy a house in the middle of a cornfield?"
Rinker offered to create a buffer zone between the homes and the fields, but few residents were satisfied with the offer.
Some groups, such as the Alexandria Action Committee, looked for ways to stymie the sale, including raising more than $400,000 to buy the course itself, and Eads hinted that such a group might still be prepared to make an offer for the property.
But Beeman said that since 2000 the number of golfers has dropped dramatically in the United States, as have the number of golf courses. In the past two years, 32 golf courses opened across the country, while 312 closed.
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