New plans for Akron golf course unveiled

By on February 10, 2016
An artist’s rendering of the proposed use for Akron’s Westview Golf Course. Handi*Vangelism Ministries International plans to develop a property for people with special needs and disabilities, and their families.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed use for Akron’s Westview Golf Course. Handi*Vangelism Ministries International plans to develop a property for people with special needs and disabilities, and their families.

A plan to change Akron’s Westview Golf Course from one kind of green space to another was unveiled Monday night at Akron Borough Council’s regular monthly meeting.

Handi*Vangelism Ministries International presented their proposal to develop a facility that would consolidate their ministry to people with special needs and disabilities from two locations into one.

HVMI was founded in 1973 by Tim Sheetz, who serves today as the organization’s executive director. His wife Kathy is executive secretary. The couple live on Heritage Road in a property that adjoins the golf course.

HVMI’s attorney, Robert Weaver, of Lancaster, explained to council and a packed meeting room, what the organization would like to do with the property. Over the summer, HVMI hosts camps for special needs children. Each camp runs for five days and four nights and includes from 20 to 35 children. The children receive one-on-one counseling while they are at the camp.

Although summer is the busiest time for HVMI, there are programs throughout the year.
“In addition to the summer camps,” Tim Sheetz told council, “we have weekend retreats for the summer campers.

We also want to have a getaway area for parents who have lost a child. This is a no-cost getaway for people who need help, solace, comfort. That’s part of our ministry.”

Weaver contrasted the HVMI proposal to developing the tract as a residential development.

“The property is probably not realistic for residential,” he said. “A substantial portion of the property is now on floodplain. And the property drops off substantially towards the Cocalico Creek.”

He added that the current Westview owner, Robert Seidel, is looking to sell the property because he wants to retire. Par-three golf courses aren’t as profitable as they were at one time, so in order to sell it, it would have to have a change in use.

HVMI would like to use the property both for its headquarters and for the work of its various ministries. They see a need for a one- or two-story headquarters building, a cabin for the overnight campers, a multi-purpose building, a pavilion and two or three houses for the permanent staff of counselors and people who would maintain the property.

Weaver said leaving most of the property in green space would be an advantage for the borough’s stormwater and runoff issues. And he frequently stressed that the sketch plan presented to council on Monday night was very preliminary.

The borough’s planning commission will meet at borough hall on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the HVMI proposal among other issues.

Former council member Joyce Moyer was at the meeting and asked questions about traffic, HVMI’s tax-exempt status, and the roads indicated on the sketch plans.

Kyle Robinson, assistant to Tim Sheetz, said traffic shouldn’t be much of an issue. Day-to-day, only about a dozen people would be entering and leaving the property, and some of them share a ride. During camping season, parents drop their children off on Monday morning and pick them up Friday afternoon. He said it’s a quick process.

The roads on the sketch plan would be driveways maintained by HVMI staff.
Weaver addressed the tax-exempt issue by saying that very often non-profits do make payments in lieu of taxes to the municipalities in which they are located.

K. L. Shirk, the borough solicitor pointed out that discussions about such payments were part of the normal “horse trading” that revolves around zoning issues, but said approval or disapproval of the HVMI plan could not be contingent on whether or not the organization would offer to make such payments.

Westview currently pays about $1,100 a year in tax to the borough.

There seemed to be no serious objections to the HVMI proposal, but one Heritage Road resident made an impassioned speech in favor of it.

“My name is Tony Ice,” he said, “a resident of Heritage Road. I’m one of the properties that borders Westview. I’m at 24, and my mother’s property is at 18. We were one of the first properties in that development back in 1972.

“I’ve lived with the golf course for its many years. I went to school with Robin Seidel and I know of all the hard work that he and his father before him have put into the property, trying to keep it as green space, beautified with flowers, trees, green lawn, and a tremendous job of weed control.

“I can’t think of anybody I’d rather see there than HandiEvangelism. They recognize its value as green space, and being able to have a beautiful-looking property.

“I believe, if you’ll accept my expression, that God has had his hand in this whole works. And I am glad to see this going forward. I’ve seen and heard some things that I believe are the hand of God moving.

“I would hope that the hearts and minds of council are open and will listen to that tiny voice that directs you. I would ask for your blessings in this project going forward.”

Dick Wanner reported on this story for The Review. He can be reached at rwanner.eph@lnpnews.com, or by phone at 419-4703.

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