St. Mark’s shares golf course deed

by beth on October 21, 2016

Post image for St. Mark’s shares golf course deed

Above: St. Mark’s provided backup to the Town’s assertion that the 60 acre golf course could be developed if voters don’t agree to purchase it. (image posted to Facebook by Charles Kerbel Sr.)

Yesterday, I shared news that St. Mark’s School claimed that there are no restriction developments on their 36 Cordaville Road property. At the time, I stated that I hadn’t been provided the deed yet to back that up. That has changed.

The school has provided a copy of the deed, releasing to them “all rights of DOWER and HOMESTEAD and other interests therein.”  No language in it refers to any restrictions on use or development.

I’m not a lawyer and have zero background in real estate. So, I can’t attest this answers all residents’ questions. But as I shared yesterday, Town Counsel is also researching the title to ensure there are no restrictions preventing development.

At this point, it appears that the school does have the right to sell the 60 acres for profit and to potentially be developed. It was with that understanding that selectmen chose to pursue purchasing the land to preserve half as open space and use the other for municipal buildings – a public safety building and potentially a future senior/community center.

Below are the relevant passages from the document. 

Click thumbnails to enlarge. Or click here for the pdf.

st-marks-golf-course-deed-part-1 st-marks-golf-course-deed-part-2

For more on the land deal between the Town and St. Mark’s, click here.

1 Susan Bates October 23, 2016 at 7:25 PM

Must we really abandon the golf course?

The editor has gone to great lengths to provide us with information, but nobody has yet commented about wanting to save it.

Some years ago, when St Marks School proposed to sell the land for private condos, there was an uproar. When the Burnett mansion was threatened, our high school students rose up in protest. Why is there no protest now?

Is it because the Selectmen have urged silence? To appease residents of Latisquama Rd, they had private meetings (invitation only), promising no new driveways or buildings along that road. To appease open space preservationists, they have promised that 50% will remain open. To justify development, they claim we need the land for many future public projects, starting with Public safety, then a new Senior Center, Community Center, etc … eventually the site can be 50% developed.

This is not a neighborhood issue. It is a town issue. The golf course is uniquely valuable to the whole town, because it is so visible from Rte 85, the major entry into our historic town center. It makes this entry extremely attractive, by providing long, scenic views. This adds value to the whole town. Just as all residents show their visitors, so all real estate agents drive their buyers to this viewpoint.

The Selectmen’s focus has been solely on finding a site for future Public Safety buildings. Luckily for us, St Marks School wants the site of our existing Public Safety facility, so both parties can benefit from a move to a new site. But why must a new site be on the golf course?

Please, Selectmen, Find another site. Reconsider the land we already own. Widen the search process and ask private land owners if they want to sell.

2 Al Hamilton October 24, 2016 at 8:39 AM

While I chair the Public Safety Building Study Committee the following comments are mine and mine alone.

Over the last year and a half, the PS building committee looked a number of sites for a possible PS building. The choices are not very broad. The Building must be located with good access to the 85/9 overpass as it is the only non grade crossing of Rt 9. The facility cannot be located on Rt 9 because of the obvious traffic concerns for emergency vehicles.

The most obvious candidate was the Transfer Station. However, on study, this site is not well suited to emergency operations, particularly Fire and Ambulance. Any proposed building would require relocating some of the assets in place at the transfer station (eg the “pit”) raising the cost of the project. However the biggest drawback is access to Rt 85.

Ideally, emergency apparatus should have dedicated access to the road network. If you look at most modern fire stations (eg Marlborough on Rt 85) you will see a building with a paved “apron” in front that connects directly to a major road. Access to Rt 85 to the site cannot be expanded. The entrance road is highly constrained (and we do not own it all). To the South is a wetland and to the north is a wetland and public drinking water supply. It was deemed not feasible to put a dedicated access for fire and ambulance on the site.

The town did reach out to some private owners to see if there was any interest in selling with a negative response.

In the end the committee recommended that we expand the existing site adding land to the west (into the meadow) and to the north (towards St. Marks). St. Marks preferred to offer us the opportunity to purchase the golf course and the deal now before us.

The reality is that if we do not purchase this parcel, sooner or later (probably sooner) there will be a new owner who will develop the parcel. That is the choice before us. Buy the parcel and use it for various public purposes or see it developed in the foreseeable future.

3 John Smith October 24, 2016 at 7:07 AM

I completely agree…….the Town of Southborough is going to have a tough sell; not only do they have to convince voters we need a new public safety complex they also have to convince everyone we paid a premium for the Land to build the facility…..and to your point, instead of preserving this Land they are going to develop it with a Public Safety Complex, Senior Center and possibly Recreation?……I truly am torn with this decision and might be looking at this with rose colored glasses but St Marks has never been a good neighbor, so getting an opportunity to own this “gem” of a parcel and protect it from future development once and for all may be our best option.

However, what will the master plan look like when all the different Town Boards / Committees get their hands on it?….the deal indicates 50% of the Land to remain undeveloped which is NOT ENOUGH!…..the Town will slowly destroy this parcel, I guaranteed there will be small steel buildings, trailers, sheds, paved areas and mounds of sands sprinkled throughout in 10 years.

The Town needs to protect more than 50%. of Land!!!!…..in addition, the Town needs to clarify and state developable land, as a good portion of land is protected already from development, they are being cute by leaving that out.

4 southsider October 24, 2016 at 2:39 PM

I agree with Mr. Smith. More than 50% of this beautiful property should be saved from any kind of development. Can the Southborough Open Land ( Space? ) Foundation kick in any funding to help improve the ratio of saved vs developed?

5 RTZ October 24, 2016 at 10:42 AM

Has the case already been made and agreed upon by the town that we have a need for a new public safety complex? I’m not asking to be argumentative. I’m just wondering if I missed something. Was this already addressed at a previous town meeting? If not, I would be interested in hearing how the current facility is impairing the performance of our police and emergency responders before discussing where the new building should go. I understand that new facilities would be nice to have. New is always nice but is there a compelling case that we need to make this multimillion dollar investment?

6 beth October 24, 2016 at 11:04 AM

That will be part of the case the Town makes at Town Meeting. But in answer to has it been “agreed upon by the town” – it has by selectmen. It hasn’t been voted on in anyway by residents. But this isn’t out of the blue. And there have been presentations at public meetings and an attempt to communicate with the public about the need.

You can check out past meetings and news info on the topic here.

7 Al Hamilton October 24, 2016 at 12:08 PM

RTZ –

These comments are mine and mine alone and do not reflect the position of the PS building committee which I chair.

Town Meeting does not make the decision with respect to whether we need or do not need a new Public Safety Building. They make the decision as to whether to appropriate or not appropriate the funds for a proposed building. The proposals typically come from the executive branch (eg BOS or School Committee). No proposal for funding has been put on the floor as of yet.

This matter has been under study for well over 15 years. There is, in my opinion, no question that we need a new police facility. The current building is in terrible condition and cannot, in the opinion of multiple architects/engineers, be renovated in a cost effective manor. The fire station by comparison is in better condition but when constructed, was not built with facilities then not considered, (eg facilities for female firefighters/emt’s, hazardous waste facilities). The equipment bays are overcrowded and the layout is poor. This facility could be renovated but at no cost advantage to new construction, particularly when the cost of temporary relocation is considered. The facility as is could provide service for another 10 years.

The reality is that if we want to prevent wholesale development of the golf course then the deal on the table is the one we need to consider. St Marks would get the existing PS site as part of the deal which means that if we do this we have no choice but to build a new PS building. This is a good time to do this, our debt burdens are coming down as we pay off the Schools and interest rates remain low.

8 Mark Ford October 24, 2016 at 11:22 AM

I thought the Historical Commission felt that the Police Station in particular was an historically important building to Southborough, and hadn’t their objections in 2009-2010 stopped a new safety complex proposal in its tracks? Where does the commission stand on this proposed sale?

9 beth October 24, 2016 at 11:37 AM

I did point that out in my post from earlier last week. The desire of some to preserve the station played role in the town’s last unsuccessful attempt to build a new police station. But I don’t believe voters ever got a chance to formally weigh in.

10 Chef October 24, 2016 at 12:54 PM

We do not need a new police or fire station. Who has made the case and presented it to town meeting? How has police and fire service been hindered by the existing buildings?

We do not need another huge town debt foisted on taxpayers.

11 D. McGee October 24, 2016 at 3:06 PM

Interesting you would make this claim without knowing if anyone has made a case for new buildings, or what that case may be. I’m not trying to be rude, but perhaps you should do the research first, consider the arguments on both sides, and then form an opinion based on facts, instead of having a knee-jerk reaction to any spending.

12 em October 24, 2016 at 2:36 PM

If I recall correctly, SAM produced a video last year that included tours/footage and commentary of the existing police and fire facilities. I, personally, found them compelling. Without watching them, though, I probably would be more skeptical of the need for more space and better planned facilities. I’d encourage people to check them out if they are not aware of the problems of the current spaces.

13 AnnSchloessing October 24, 2016 at 3:29 PM

I live far from the town center, and I do not play golf. But I care deeply about the golf course because of the beautiful appearance it gives to our center, and the value it gives to the whole town. Who can name another town which has this absolutely unique quality of the golf course located right at its center?

There are other alternatives which must be pursued. St Mark’s is interested in our public Safety site, if we vacate it. St Mark’s is also interested in selling the golf course, and we are interested in preserving it. These are two separate issues. They need not be combined into one, complicated, “package deal”.

Our Master Plan certainly did not call for the golf course to be developed. No way. It called for preservation. Somehow it has morphed into a development site for multiple town projects, some completely fictitious. What is the point in having a Master Plan when our Selectmen do the very opposite?

14 Al Hamilton October 27, 2016 at 12:53 PM

While I chair the PS building study committee the following comments are mine and mine alone.

Ann

The Master Plan is not binding and is not a legal document and has no effect on the usage of land. The owners of the land have the right to develop the land subject to any restrictions in the title (In this case there do not appear to be any) and our zoning by laws. The land is zoned Residential B (25,000 Sq Ft Lots) and it would be perfectly feasible for the owner of the land to develop a Madison Place or Park Central type development on the parcel.

The master plan represents a vision and guideline but it has no ability to tell the BOS or Town Meeting what it must or must not do. That is up to the voters.

15 Adam Cambridge October 24, 2016 at 6:36 PM

Makes sense to take another look, in far more depth, at other alternatives for Public Safety, before abandoning the golf course, which I agree is a key driver of value to this town.

If Public Safety has to be a new build, and large sites cannot be found, then split Police and Fire onto two smaller sites. It is not essential they be sited together. (There are minor benefits to a combined facility, but most towns have separate facilities).

Nor is it essential that they be built at the same time. Police has the greater need for early replacement. Fire could be made adequate for many years. It could be phase 2.

There was no mention of costs. Apparently, the construction cost of a new public safety complex will exceed $20 million. So finding a new site of 2+ acres will be marginal.

Town Meeting will expect detailed answers to all alternatives before they vote for the largest expenditure in town history. Especially one that contravenes our Master Plan.

16 Stu Evans October 24, 2016 at 8:09 PM

Comment removed for a parent violation of comment policy.

17 Al Hamilton October 26, 2016 at 8:59 AM

Stu

While I chair the PS building committee the following comments are mine and mine alone.

The PS committee did look at the the large area to the west of the recycling area and determined it was not a suitable site.

Aside from the narrow access issues there are significant wetlands on the property (the Facility needs about 2.5 A). There are steep grades that would need to be adjusted and the recycling facility would have to be moved.

Picture a Saturday afternoon with cars backed up and emergency vehicles trying to get out.

The committee and its consultants spent a significant amount of time looking at the whole parcel, including the area you referred to and determined that it was not a good fit vs expanding in the current location.

18 RB October 25, 2016 at 8:31 AM

I suspect St. Mark’s will be looking to unload the golf course sooner or later – and they explored selling it years ago. In this day and age where the number of people golfing is diminishing, I cannot imagine the income from golf sustains the operation and costs of the facility. Nor can I imagine another golf operator purchasing a money-loser.

One does not have to look very far at what is occurring in the small golf course industry:
Stony Brook in Southborough closed and sold to become an organic farm (for now??).
Millwood Farms Golf Course in Framingham – being sold for a housing development.

If it comes to St. Mark’s selling it to a developer for prime $$$ and houses, or to the town, who proposes preserving half of it as open space, I would much prefer the town option, and hope we can maintain the wide open spaces.

19 southville October 25, 2016 at 10:55 AM

Agreed. If they are offering it to the town, that means they are looking to sell it to someone. If we buy it, we get a good place for our new complex (remember the town hasn’t had luck in it’s search before this) and also keep it 50% undeveloped. So it’s a double victory for Southborough.

If we pass it up, St. Marks could sell it to anyone else, and whoever bought it would very likely want to maximize the value of the land, which means much more development.

I think the problem that people here have is thinking that leaving the land as a golf course is an option, when it appears that it isn’t.

20 Townie October 25, 2016 at 12:26 PM

I’m all for the purchase of the golf course. It seems St Marks will be selling the property regardless of the towns decision to purchase it. We don’t purchase it now, it’ll be sold and most likely turn into another Park Central which NONE of us want. It’s in our best interest to purchase for a discounted price while we can. I’m also for a new Safety Complex on this site. What I’m against, is any more buildings being built on the parcel. Safety Complex only in the location the club house is currently in, the rest of the land should be left untouched and preserved at open space.

21 Susan Bates October 26, 2016 at 5:31 PM

Assuming it is essential to use the golf course site, and no other suitable sites exist, then I agree with Townie.

St Mark’s wants to sell it, so let’s buy it. Then restrict building on the beautiful site. Limit it to Fire and Police only, and build in the least disruptive way. Save all the rest as open space in perpetuity, with legally binding restrictions. Tuck the new Fire/Police as far back as possible, close to Woodward school, and landscape with as many trees as possible.

But that, in my opinion, should be a last resort. First, why not consider alternate sites, and preserve the golf course as is. Buy it and preserve it as a working golf course. .

Anyone got any ideas on other sites for Fire/Police, other than the DPW site? Is any private land suitable, that might be negotiated?

22 David Parry October 26, 2016 at 6:56 PM

A question to golfers:

If the impact of a new Fire/Police building can be minimized, (located very close to Woodward), then might that leave enough land to keep a working golf course on the remaining land?

Of course, holes # 1 and 9 would have to be shortened.
Could #1 tee and #9 green use the “rough” land just north of the woods, for instance?

I am NOT advocating this. Even though I am not a golfer, I prefer keeping the course as is, buying it, preserving it (because of the unique, public, scenic views it provides) …. and finding another good site for Fire/Police.

I am just asking the question of whether the golf course might still be made to work, and most of the scenic views saved …. in the event no other site can be found for Fire/Police, and proponents of that project may be successful at Town Meeting.

If the answer is clearly “no”, the course cannot work in a shortened form, then the need for an alternative site is even more important.

23 Frank Crowell October 27, 2016 at 11:25 AM

I am a golfer and have enjoyed playing golf there and meeting many nice people. Surprisingly a lot of out of town people play golf there. Cost of moving tees and greens as well as overall upkeep will most likely make keeping this a golf course unfeasible – meaning the none golf playing taxpayers in town should not subsidize it. One possible alternative is keeping it open space with an eye towards winter sports: sledding, X-country skiing and hockey (site for larger temporary rink).

Would I play there if the course were shortened – sure but I am not sure if I would pay more then $30 a round to do so.

24 John Smith October 27, 2016 at 7:42 AM

Hello David…..I like your thought process but that’s a good question for the Organization (New England Golf Corporation) that runs the golf course, as I’m not sure how shortening that will impact profit. I’m assuming re-configuring the course will be a capitol improvement as well ($), but we could charge the St. Marks Students a premium to play their to off-set the cost. (Joke but not really)

I hope that the rest of the people agree with Townie, Sue and myself only If theirs no other land available; build a complex in the current golf club location and restrict the remaining parcel for any future development in perpetuity. The deal the BOS is jamming down our throat (keep 50% of parcel as undeveloped land) is a hard pill to swallow, they need to revisit that as Public opinion is not on their side at this point.

Also, I just don’t see the BOS getting all their ducks in a row in advance of Town Meeting. I’m afraid that the BOS is going to ask the town groups / committees if they want a piece of the pie, and of course they will say yes, what the BOS should be doing is preserving the remainder of the Parcel if the complex can be built in the current club house location.

.

25 Al Hamilton October 28, 2016 at 8:51 AM

While I chair the PS building study committee the following comments are mine and mine alone.

John

” I’m afraid that the BOS is going to ask the town groups / committees if they want a piece of the pie, and of course they will say yes, ” – In my opinion, it is the BOS’s duty to discuss this with all of the town. After all if we buy this parcel, all of the town will be asked to pay for it ( on the order of $50-100 per year by my rough calculations for the median home). Shouldn’t everyone at least have the opportunity to be heard as to their preferences.

I would be surprised if there was a comprehensive plan for the land before the vote. The process of giving all stakeholders a chance to make their voices heard could take years (we have been trying to build a PS building for 15 after all.)

The important thing is to get title to the land first. If we do not, then the current owner could rightly conclude that the town is not interested in the parcel and sell it for development (The most developable land is on the east side of the site along Latisquama.) It would not be out of the question to see a Madison Place type development.

If the land is sold for development we would have the option of purchasing it if we can act within 120 days. This would include holding a special town meeting and an election. Speed of action is not a characteristic of our form of government.

If by some miracle we were able to get our act together within the 120 days, we would have to offer exactly the same terms as the developer. This would mean that we would pay more (I believe the parcel is valued between $6 and $7 million) and there would be no commitment to leave 50% undeveloped. I for one would be reluctant to vote in favor of this type of deal.

The deal before is is the deal before us. In my opinion, it is a good deal for the Town. We should focus on getting title to the land first and then let all interested parties discuss how we are going to use it. That process will take time.

26 Larry Cain October 29, 2016 at 3:46 PM

Comment removed for a parent violation of comment policy.

27 Al Hamilton November 3, 2016 at 8:31 AM

While I chair the Public Safety Building Study Committee the following comments are mine and mine alone.

Last night the PS Building Study Committee met. Town Administrator Mark Purple reported that Town Counsel had commissioned an independent title search of the St Marks Golf course. Town counsels conclusion was that there was nothing in the deeds that would prevent the parcel from being developed.

I draw the following conclusions

1. If we do not buy the property I believe it will be sold for development in the near future. Most of the development will be on the East side of the lot along Latisquama where there are no wetlands.

2. If we exercise our 61b option when the land is sold we are likely to pay much more and the requirement to leave 50% undeveloped.

3. If we do not buy the land, the likely site of a public safety complex will return to the existing site which will be more expensive to develop than a clean sheet of paper site.

4. The process of deciding what goes where on the site will take time. The whole town will be asked to pay for the purchase and all parties should have a voice in how it is used. No single use is likely to dominate. In my opinion a plan for how the site should be used should not stand in the way of acquiring the parcel.

28 John Smith November 7, 2016 at 6:49 AM

Al…..Its’ unfortunate but I believe you are going to have a hard sell if you are not backed by the BOS for the following reasons;

1) BOS should be putting all land (in addition to PSC parcel) in Conservation but from what I can tell they are not contacting Con Com (which is extremely disturbing). They are calling it “undeveloped” but they (BOS) will slowly destroy this beautiful piece of land for years to come one acre at a time.
2) How do residents trust the BOS with Restrictions / Deeds (Choate Field) and Gifts (St. Marks Golf Course) as they seem to mean nothing and just a minor hurdle? That is why the land needs to be put in Conservation NOT controlled by these pro development BOS Members. By putting the Land in Conservation that is the only way the Land will be protected in Perpetuity!
3) Tax Payers are aware CPC funds are available to put the Land in conservation with or without the new Public Safety Complex. The purchase of the Land and Complex is a major burden on tax payers if CPC Funds aren’t used. Why are your friends not approaching CPC?
4) The abutters and most town’s people believe 50% is not enough of undeveloped land they should be putting more into conservation.
5) What happens to Main Street?…Are we supposed to trust St. Marks to do the right thing?

Al, I support the Towns needs reluctantly but you need to make sure the BOS is doing they’re part by getting answers to the questions above….also not stacking these special committee’s with pro soccer field people. Last I checked, the town soccer fields were littered with debris and we already have a renovated senior center, which is not the right approach!

Previous post:

Next post: