Selectmen may amend Golf Course article to include CR; Related meetings Thurs night (Updated again)

by beth on February 22, 2017

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Above: Supporters of Article 3 are seeking to preserve the golf course alongside a new combined fire & police station. Apparently, they are holding a meeting Thursday night. And Selectmen may vote then to support their efforts – though through an amended route. (image cropped from saveourgolfcourse.info)

Selectmen want voters to approve buying St. Mark’s Golf Course and fund building a new public safety complex on the site. To secure enough votes, they are considering including a Conservation Restriction on the over 90% remainder of the 60 acre parcel.

Board of Selectmen Chair Brian Shea announced the possibility at last night’s Board of Selectmen meeting. Shea said the board will wait to hear what the St. Mark’s Golf Course Master Plan Committee’s recommendation is. They expect to hear that final recommendation tomorrow night. After which, the board may cast their votes.

[That meeting is scheduled for Thursday, February 23 at 7:00 pm in the Community House, 28 Main St.

Editor’s Note: The Master Plan Committee will meet at the Senior Center at 7pm. They hope to finalize their recommendation. At that point the Chair will head to the Community House to present to Selectmen at their meeting.]

The Master Plan Committee has been working hard over the past two months. So, selectmen certainly need to consider what their volunteers came up with. (Or risk never successfully recruiting another committee again!)

But the board is clearly influenced by public movements to put a CR on the land. Their first priority is securing a parcel for the public safety building. And action groups looking to “save” the land have selectmen worried about the votes.

Last night, Shea told the public that the Southborough Open Land Foundation and Open Space Preservation Commission both indicated they would support selectmen’s Articles (1&2) if there was a CR on the remaining parcel. 

The biggest risk to Articles 1 & 2 has seemed to come from supporters of Article 4 to “Save our heritage”. The article asks voters to reject Articles 1 & 2, and push selectmen to try to purchase the land to place a CR on the entire parcel. It gives no provision for the police and fire stations. (Supporters say that they are confident the Town would come up with another solution to handle those needs. Opponents argue that rejecting 1&2 would result in sale of the land to private development.)

A CR on the land abutting the public safety complex is what some supporters of Article 3 to save the golf course have promoted. That would preserve over 90% of the land and is intended to allow the golf course to remain in operation (after modifications). It would potentially prevent the Town from building other facilities on the land (like a community center or new senior center).

But Article 1 & 2 would be voted on before 3. Some opponents have warned people that if they vote for 1&2 they could lose on Article 3.

If that happened, that would mean no CR on the land. And there has been some confusion as to whether even if Article 3 was passed it would ensure a CR in perpetuity.

Those arguments could scare some voters who would be fine with just a public safety building on the land into supporting Article 4 instead. That would be averted if selectmen amend Articles 1 & 2 to include a CR.

Shea said that he has asked Town Administrator Mark Purple to draft a potential amendment to the Articles that would include a CR to preserve the remainder of the course. Whether or not that amendment to the articles would be adopted has yet to be voted on.

Selectmen have never as a group taken a position on how the remainder of the golf course should be used. The genesis for the golf course deal was negotiating with St. Mark’s School for enough land to build the public safety complex. Originally, they sought land abutting the current stations, owned by the school.

The board told the public that soon after approaching the school, they learned that St. Mark’s wasn’t interested in giving up the land. Instead, they told the Town they were planning to sell the golf course. They would make a deal if it included getting the stations’ parcel and another town-owned property (the “stump dump”).

Selectmen said that they believed the opportunity to prevent private development there was a win-win.

As for what to do with the land, that was what they formed the Master Plan Committee to help them to decide.

Part of the committee’s mission was seeking public feedback from a wide variety of constituents. The committee has held frequent meetings this winter to help selectmen prepare for the March 8th Special Town Meeting. This Thursday night, they will make what is hoped to be their final report.

During the week, selectmen and the Master Plan Committee posted agendas for meetings on Thursday night at 7:00 pm at the Community House (28 Main Street).

According to selectmen’s agenda, the meeting is:

to be conducted in conjunction with “Save Our Golf Course” group’s public forum.

On the agenda, the Master Plan Committee is set to present to selectmen. Afterwards, the board will discuss recommendations and possibly vote on a position.

Updated (2/23/17 7:05 am): Town Clerk Jim Hegarty pointed out to me that the Master Plan Committee’s posted agenda has them at Cordaville Hall, not the Community House where selectmen are meeting. Given the overlap in agendas with the committee scheduled to update selectmen and selectmen scheduled to discuss/vote on the committee’s recommendation, I’m not sure what is going on. I will seek clarification.

Updated (2/23/17 8:33 am): I reached out to the Town. SMGCMP Chair, Brian Shifrin, responded:

The St Marks Golf Course Master Planning Committee is meeting at 7pm at the senior center. One of the first things we will do is have a discussion which I hope will result in a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen. The meeting will then either adjourn or continue without me and I will head to the Community House (@ 8pm) to present our recommendation to the Board of Selectmen (and any others present).

1 Brian February 22, 2017 at 7:31 PM

The private develpers can name the condo complex after article 4. “Save our Heratige Townhomes/40B”. The signs lining latisquama are deceiving “No Development” = Total Development. If you vote for article 4 be carful what you wish for.

Vote for 1/2/3.

2 I'm Just Sayin' February 23, 2017 at 7:51 AM

It is unfortunate that we even have to make these decisions now…whatever happened to the plan to purchase the building across from the transfer station that is adjacent to Town Center? As I recall, it was for sale for $1 million and it was going to cost another million to retrofit it for a combined fire/police station. Then we didn’t hear another word about it. Now we are looking at a $23 million dollar project. I know there were police officers on that committee who were in favor of that plan. It would have been finished in less than a year and they would have been in their new facility years ago. We could have sold the land to St. Mark’s that they now want us to give to them and that would have helped pay for the project. It would seem that to drop that plan was shortsighted and lacked common sense.

There is no question that the need for a new police station is dire and that the fire department building is less than ideal. I certainly hope we are not going to make another very costly mistake this time around, especially given the time constraints that St. Mark’s School has imposed on us.

At least this time we get to vote on a plan instead of it just being thrown out without taxpayer input…yes, water under the bridge, but hopefully we can learn from our mistakes and not repeat them.

Think carefully, weigh the pros and cons, and vote accordingly.

3 Publius February 24, 2017 at 4:37 PM

Town run golf course are a municipal fiscal disaster, especially in the North, not to mention the sport has tremendous decline in those playing. Demographics not on golf’s side. A CR will limit any future flexibility.

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