Future of Rookery North property comes into focus

Developer eyes restaurant/brewpub for former clubhouse
February 21, 2023

Story Location:
6152 S. Rehoboth Ave.
Milford, DE 19963
United States

The developer who purchased the former Rookery North golf course in southern Milford is seeking to rezone a nearly four-acre portion of the property for commercial use. 

In a letter sent to the City of Milford in January, Tim Johnson, managing member of Oak Forest Park LLC, said his group’s intention is to reopen the 18-hole golf course and complement it with a new restaurant. Tim and Matt Johnson purchased the former Shawnee Country Club property in December 2022. 

“The old country club building will receive a much-needed facelift both inside and out using the existing footprint,” Tim wrote in the letter. “Our concept for the former country club is to open a restaurant and brewpub that will occupy the main building and former pro shop.”

The plan is to have the restaurant and brewpub open by Sept. 1. 

One hurdle to clear is the fact that a restaurant/brewpub is not a permitted use within the existing R-2 residential district zoning. The developers could seek a conditional use, which would be allowed as long as the golf course is operational. However, the potential tenant for the restaurant/brewpub is planning to make a substantial investment in renovations and would like the option to purchase its portion of the property in the future. 

“Essentially, we would like to carve out four acres for the restaurant and rezone this to C-1 [neighborhood commercial], which would be an approved use,” Tim wrote. 

He said the restaurant/brewpub is essential to making the overall plan work.

“The future success of this property depends on the establishment of a new restaurant, which will be our anchor and create an attraction for the golf course,” he wrote. “We would hate to see the golf course fail once again and houses take its place.” 

The rezoning application will be considered by the city’s planning commission at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 21. If acted on, the issue could go before city council Monday, Feb. 27.

The developers estimate the restaurant and brewpub will employ 75 to 100 people. The golf course will have 15 to 25 employees. 

Tim said work is already underway to clean up the existing landscaping at the golf course. 

“We plan to have the first nine holes, driving range  and pro shop open by Sept. 1, 2023, to coincide with the opening of the restaurant,” Tim wrote. 

The final nine holes should be open by June 1, 2024, if not earlier, he said. Rookery North closed at the end of 2020. 

“Since the existing course layout will remain the same, all of our concentration will be on landscaping and refurbishing the greens, fairways, bunkers and irrigation systems,” he wrote.

The former pool house will be remodeled into the new pro shop, which will provide services for both golf and pickleball activities. 

City staff analysis 

To rezone the 3.93-acre portion, the property would have to be subdivided. Staff would review the minor subdivision administratively. In a report to city council, staff said the rezoning request is consistent with Milford’s future land-use map in its 2018 comprehensive plan. The property is designated as low-density residential, in which C-1, neighborhood commercial, is a suitable zoning designation. 

The purpose of the C-1 district is to provide for limited commercial and professional services that are compatible to a neighborhood setting. Restaurants, excluding fast-food service or franchised restaurants, are permitted in the C-1 district. 

Additionally, staff noted there is adequate off-street parking. Although zoning code does not provide a specific parking calculation for a golf course, the existing property has 81 spaces. 


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