in the area of 1100N and Pearson Road, was built in 1998. At the time, the
four residents who spoke to the Chesterton Tribune had already lived
in their homes on Pearson Road for years. There was no protective netting
until 2000, when Brassie was awarded a variance from the Porter County Board
of Zoning Appeals to erect a 40-foot tall net along Pearson Road.
David and Kim Evans, and Paul Pugh reported the net helped, but didn’t stop
stray golf balls from Brassie’s driving range from flying onto their
properties. Brassie came under new management, by a company called PMM
Chesterton LLC, in 2012. Since the change, the residents report Brassie is
continually unresponsive to their complaints.
she has two five-gallon buckets nearly full of golf balls. Evans has over
200 golf balls that have come into his yard just in the past three years.
The residents get
damage ranging from dented garage doors and dents in parked cars to broken
siding, broken windows, and broken outdoor lights. The damage has been
documented in multiple police reports and in a small claims suit.
The residents said
they don’t feel safe in their own yards, and they’ve all had near misses.
They also noted that anyone walking or driving along Pearson Road is
Kim Evans said she
once saw Pugh’s niece have a near miss while playing in Pugh’s yard. “It
would have killed her if it hit her in the head,” Evans said. “They come
through the trees like missiles.”
Evans was extra
disturbed after hearing about a recent golf ball death--a six-year old girl
was killed by a stray golf ball on a course in Utah last month.
The group thinks a
higher net that extends farther north or changing the layout or location of
the driving range could help, but Brassie’s Golf Pro is unresponsive and
staff who have answered their calls give a range of excuses, though past
management was willing to work with them.
“The biggest thing
is, if they really can’t change the course, they need to take responsibility
for the actions,” Pugh said. Evans replied that he’s “way beyond that.”
Komenas said, “I’m tired of sitting in the house all day. I want that net
higher and farther down.”
“I want the freedom
to use my property. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request,” Komenas
Chris Yugo said it’s his position, and “the majority rule” that the golfer
who hit the ball is responsible for damages. Porter Superior Court Judge
Michael Drenth disagreed July 1 when he ordered Brassie to pay approximately
$570 in damages to reimburse Komenas for work done on a broken outdoor light
knowledge of a pattern of complaints/damage and said no mention was made of
that history when Brassie came under new ownership. Yugo said he understands
Komenas’ house was damaged, and a court ordered a settlement, but said “I’m
not sure what we should do about that other than apologize and pay the
Yugo said Brassie
intends to pay the $570 in damages, though he doesn’t agree with the ruling.
The damages were supposed to be paid by July 31. Komenas reported Brassie
has dragged their feet in paying.
When asked if the
golfers are made aware of Brassie’s position on liability before they use
the facilities, Yugo said he had “no idea.”
One regular Brassie
golfer told the Tribune that he has never been informed by the
Brassie that golfers bear liability, nor has the Brassie posted signage
saying so in the clubhouse, pro shop, or driving range. This reporter also
observed the lack of signage.
Porter County Code
Enforcer Joey Larr said golf ball damage is “strictly a civil matter,” and
the County has “no ordinances or codes that are specific to a golf course.”
knows of a similar case in Valparaiso. A number of cars traveling Harrison
Boulevard have been hit by stray drives from Forest Park’s 14th hole. Forest
Park is owned by the Valparaiso Parks Department, and they take no
responsibility for the damage, according to Larr.
“It’s an issue
between the person on the golf course who hit the golf ball that hit the
vehicle and the owner of the vehicle,” Larr said, adding that a golfer’s
homeowners insurance might cover such damage.
Yugo said members
of the public are welcome to enter Brassie through the regular entrance and
go to the driving range to look for a golfer who may have caused property
damage, despite the boundaries of the driving range being peppered with “No
When asked if
Brassie is concerned about stray drives posing a safety concern, Yugo said
he couldn’t comment on something that may or may not become a problem. “If
it becomes a serious problem, we would certainly discuss it. We want to be
good neighbors,” he said.
Larr, for his part,
said he was glad Komenas succeeded in court, and he thinks the change in
Brassie’s management is part of the problem.
What has been done?
understand damage is a civil matter, but they think the safety element
should concern local officials, and they say they’ve gotten nowhere after
contacting everyone they can think of.
Komenas and Evans
said they’re told to either get a lawyer or that local officials’ hands are
tied. “They say they can’t tell a business how to operate, but it’s not a
clothing store. These are things that can hurt people,” Komenas said. “We’ve
all almost been hit,” she added.
David Evans is
dumbfounded by the lack of action. “I don’t know why my tax money goes to
their salaries, and they say, ‘It’s not my problem,’” Evans said. “I can’t
think of a single local politician who would want to live in this
environment, but they will not go to bat for us.”
Commissioner Jim Biggs said the problem isn’t that the County won’t go to
bat for them, but that the County has no authority. Biggs said he consulted
the County Attorney, the County Plan Commission, and Larr about the stray
golf balls and found, “We simply don’t have any rules against it.” He also
reported he tried speaking directly to Brassie’s former Golf Pro when
Komenas first reached out to him in 2016, and was basically told “Go pound
The residents said
current Golf Pro Andrew Soley is “always at the post office or the bank”
when they call and doesn’t return messages. Larr said he put in calls to
Soley to facilitate communication with the residents. Soley never returned
his calls, either.
This reporter got
in contact with Soley, who declined to comment. Yugo, however, denied that
the Brassie is unresponsive and said he thought Soley spoke with the
residents. Yugo, however, said he did not have personal knowledge of or
participate in those phone calls or meetings.
When asked if the
Brassie has made any more recent changes to reduce the chance of damage from
stray drives, Yugo said, “The driving range has been turned more into the
property,” though he couldn’t recall when that was done.
Yugo said the
Brassie doesn’t rule out future changes but said County Code prevents
Brassie from using larger nets--in spite of the fact that Brassie has
secured a variance before.
Engineer Mark O’Dell called Brassie recently because of the complaints and
was directed to their attorney. The north half of Brassie is inside
Chesterton Town limits, but the Town has no authority over the driving
range, which is in unincorporated Liberty Township.
however, that the Town isn’t looking to simply pass the buck, and the
Chesterton Town Attorney will look into whether or not the Town can
What can be done?
municipalities define the difference between a public nuisance or a public
safety hazard and the incidental result of a business activity? When do the
incidental consequences of a business activity constitute a public safety
hazard or nuisance? According to several local officials, there’s no clear
Biggs, for his
part, said stray golf balls can’t be treated as a public safety hazard until
it’s proven they pose a threat, i.e., someone gets hit, because the law
doesn’t work in hypotheticals. Though, Biggs did agree that regulations are
supposed to anticipate problems and offer solutions.
Larr said he
couldn’t provide a clear answer when asked at what point an issue like stray
golf balls graduates from being strictly a civil matter to a public safety
hazard or nuisance.
petitioners who apply for building permits must show their development won’t
be “detrimental to neighboring properties,” but added that enforcing
regulations meant to curb nuisances and safety hazards gets tricky when
there’s no malice involved: “Is it a nuisance, or is it just an accident?
That’s what’s hard to determine.”
Biggs offered that
he would bring the issue up at the next Board of Commissioners meeting,
Tuesday, Sept 3. at 10 a.m.
Biggs said he’s
open to creating an ordinance that better defines when a problem such as
this one becomes a public safety hazard/nuisance, but he’d first have to
find out if it would be enforceable. “I don’t want to create an ordinance
that will give these residents false hope that it’s going to solve this, and
then it doesn’t solve the problem because it has no teeth,” Biggs said.