‘Upscale rural’ family golf center eyed for site outside East Aurora

A local developer is teeing up a complex featuring indoor mini-golf, golf simulators and a restaurant that could open as soon as late next year in the Town of Aurora.

This is the first phase of a project that eventually may include an outdoor mini-golf course and an outdoor driving range, according to an application filed with the town Planning Board.

The EA Golf Barn development is eyed for a vacant parcel on Olean Road, just outside the East Aurora village limits, where a zoning change is required before the project can proceed.

The developer behind the concept said he’s not aware of any similar golf centers in the Southtowns.

“I think it’s a perfect fit for East Aurora. I think it adds something to the town and it sits just outside of the village. And it’s not something that is currently offered,” said Harrison W. Kelly III, a business consultant and associate professor of practice in the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

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Kelly and his wife, Jill, bought the property at 600 Olean Road in 2019 for $160,000, public records show, before transferring it to Olean LLC, a limited liability company linked to Harrison Kelly and the couple’s West Falls home.

It’s a 14.4 acre parcel just north of the Route 400 exit. Harrison Kelly said he was drawn to the property because of its location half a mile south of the village.

“People come to East Aurora to enjoy a nice meal and then look for something to do afterwards, and sometimes beforehand,” Kelly said. “So we’re hoping to capitalize on that and offer visitors and residents something to do year-round.”

His site plan application proposes the construction of a 12,000-square-foot family golf center designed in the style of a monitor, or raised center aisle, barn.

It would boast an 18-hole, “immersive” mini-golf course; golf simulators that let users pretend to play PGA-level courses; and a dining area featuring a collaboration with local culinary establishments.

“Uniquely designed with an ‘upscale rural’ theme, this facility aims to fill the void of golf-themed family entertainment in the area,” Kelly wrote in his EA Golf Barn application.

Outdoor mini-golf courses are more common than indoor courses in the area. Few operate around here with the notable exceptions of the indoor courses at the Paddock Chevrolet Golf Dome in the Town of Tonawanda and at Wizard’s Golf on Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls, Ont.

If the first phase is successful, Kelly would next look to build an outdoor, 18-hole mini-golf course on the property. The third phase would have an outdoor driving range with 20 tee boxes, nine holes, water elements and bunkers, the application states.

Starting with the indoor complex is a strategic approach for the business but also a practical one, said Kelly.

“We do get quite a bit of snow, as well,” Kelly said. “That’s one of the reasons why we’re starting with the indoor facility because it is East Aurora.”

Before any of this can happen, the Town Board must agree to rezone roughly 10 acres on the 14-acre site from agricultural and rural residential to commercial. The town Planning Board must make a recommendation on the rezoning and approve the site plan.

Town Board members discussed the rezoning application briefly during their Aug. 28 work session.

Deputy Supervisor Charles D. Snyder told Kelly he wants to see more specifics on each proposed phase, according to preliminary meeting minutes.

Council Member James F. Granville asked Kelly how many trees crews would have to cut down to make way for the project. Kelly said all of the dead ash trees on the property would go but he seeks to preserve as many other trees as possible.

And Council Member Luke E. Wochensky urged Kelly to reach out to neighbors to let them know what he plans to do with the property.

Aurora Supervisor Jim Bach said it’s premature to comment on the project because the Town Board hasn’t yet received an official recommendation from the Planning Board on the rezoning request. He said he expects Town Board members to further discuss the application at next Monday’s meeting.

If the project gets the required approvals, Kelly said in an interview, he hopes contractors can break ground at the site next spring.

He said he’s still pulling together the estimated cost for the first phase but, ideally, it would be ready to open by late 2024.

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