by Kristin Casale
Stow -- A group of Pambi Farms residents living near Roses Run Country Club want golf balls to stop hitting their homes, and they're going to court over it.
Margaret and Santosh Misra, Rainer Schaffer, Gregory and Sharon Smith and Andrew and Pamela Vitullo filed a request for an injunction May 15 asking the Summit County Court of Common Pleas to force the country club on 2636 N. River Road in Stow to stop allowing golfers to use the facility's ninth hole.
But the golf course could close if it's forced to make such a move, contends Roses Run attorney Ken Gibson.
According to Andrew Vitullo, some golfers using the ninth hole are unintentionally hitting balls at the residents' homes, and the residents would like the hole to be moved.
"I have no proof that [the golfers] are hitting the homes on purpose, so [it is] certainly by accident," said Andrew Vitullo. "The volume has been increasing over time. Our fundamental assessment is that it's happening at an increasing level over time. It's certainly not what we bargained for."
The residents' attorney, Dean Hoover, said during a hearing before Common Pleas Magistrate John Shoemaker May 23 that "We're here to stop the situation. Golf balls are raining on the homes of my clients."
If Shoemaker issues an injunction against Roses Run, the facility must stop operating the ninth hole until it is changed.
But Gibson argued during the hearing that the facility could close from loss of revenue if the hole is changed, because the change would be unpopular with many golfers. Additionally, he said, it would cost approximately $200,000 to redesign the hole.
Hoover said if the case goes to trial, the residents will seek unspecified damages from Roses Run. Currently, he said, the homeowners are not asking for damages. They are asking for the country club to stop operating the ninth hole until it is moved further away from the residents' homes.
Shoemaker had not reached a decision on the issue at press time, but he is expected to do so early this week, according to the magistrate's office.
Golf course manager John Kenezevich testified during the hearing that he moved the hole away from the homes last summer in an attempt to reduce the number of balls hitting the residences, but the original design was restored several months later when golfers threatened to stop using the facility.
Gregory Smith testified May 23 that his windows and siding have been damaged from the golf balls, but the number of balls hitting his home was reduced when the hole was temporarily moved.
He described sitting in his backyard as "too dangerous" since the change back to the original design.
Country Club facility manager Jill Lockhart, whose father A.R. Lockhart owns the club, testified she lives in the same area as the residents who have filed the complaint, and she does not experience similar problems.
Resident Pamela Vitullo said her husband has been hit by golf balls on two separate occasions, and six to seven balls land in their yard each day.
Some golfers testified that they are bothered by some homeowners.
Golfer and condominium resident James Harrington said he has experienced harassment and heard a resident "scream at us," once when he and his wife were golfing.
Golfer Barbara Porter, who noted her golf league would not return to the facility if the ninth hole is changed, said she is unhappy with the residents, testifying some property owners "jeer at us and lurk and wait for us to do something wrong."
Stow Police Lt. Rick Myers said "there has been an occasional clash" between golfers and Pambi Farms residents.
According to Lt. Rick Pastoria, the department has received 20 complaints from residents about golfers and one complaint from a golfer about residents from the time the country club opened in the fall of 1998 until August 2006.
Myers said none of those complaints resulted in charges.