AYER - April 16 was a busy day for the owner and manager of the Shaker Hills Country Club which straddles the Ayer-Harvard town line. During back-to-back hearings before the boards of selectmen in each town, the golf course leadership was granted full liquor licenses and food permits for 2013.
Appearing first in Harvard, then Ayer, owner Frederick Curtis Jr. of Princeton, and general manager Tim Vallas were accompanied by attorney Philip Feinzeig. Appearing before the Ayer Board of Selectmen, Feinzeig noted the paperwork filed with each town was nearly identical.
Curtis was the successful bidder on the 169-acre property in May 2012 at a bank foreclosure auction. Extensive renovations to the clubhouse and course soon began.
Several neighbors appeared, each stating they were impressed with Curtis, the new management team, and the work to overhaul the course and clubhouse.
Tim Goodrow of the nearby Bennetts Crossing housing development said the renovations are "spectacular" and "really top notch in my mind."
Sue DeBassio, also of Bennetts Crossing, said her son works at the course. "I'm just relieved that's not condos," said DeBassio. "They're making it beautiful."
Don Crossman lives atop the town line on Shaker Road. Philosophically, he opposes establishments that serve liquor since his family grieved the loss of a sister in law, killed by a drunk driver leaving a golf course in another community.
But Crossman said he's also "a realist." Crossman also lauded Curtis personally on his response in handling his own concerns with the course.
Crossman said Curtis contacted him immediately and offered "Let's go for a ride and talk" about Crossman's concerns. Crossman also noted that Curtis' team has made other improvements off the site "that he had no responsibility for."
"I think there's a level of trust there that I don't think was necessarily there in the past," said Crossman of the new course ownership.
"It's very rare in a public hearing that you get anybody to come as abutters," noted selectman Christopher Hillman. "That's a credit to how you run your business."
Much of the 18-hole course lies in Harvard, where traveling food and beverage carts serve players along the course. There's also a proposal for a 100-seat pavilion along the course. Five acres of the course and the clubhouse rests in Ayer.
Curtis said the restaurant will have "pub style" food offerings. Feinzeig added that the facility will once again be available for functions, corporate outings and weddings. The course remains open to the public. Visit ShakerHills.com for details.
The website states that the club has hired Josh Noiles as superintendent, Jeffrey Friel as its head golf professional, and Kendall Jones as its head chef.
The course opened on Monday, April 22.
Follow Mary Arata at twitter.com/maryearata.