Letter: Is the Golf Course Deal a good one or not?

by beth on February 27, 2017

[Ed note: My Southborough accepts signed letters to the editor submitted by Southborough residents. Letters may be emailed to mysouthborough@gmail.com.]

To the Editor:

Is the Golf Course Deal a good one or not?

Several people have asked me if the deal to purchase the golf course is favorable to the town or not. Recognizing that there was no public auction that would have produced a market clearing price for the land it is hard to establish value but a reasonable range of estimates can be made:

What is the Golf Course Worth?

The parcel is 60 Acres of which 17 A are wetlands and another 5 or so are tied up in long term septic easements (Woodward school). This leaves about 38 develop-able acres. Leaving 10% for open space and 10% for roads and utilities a reasonable estimate is that as many as 30-35 single family homes could be built on the parcel. At $150,000 – per lot that would be $4.5 million to $5.2 million. If the land can be developed at higher densities it might bring more. The land is currently assessed at $5,223,000. I think this is a reasonable floor and a high end might be 30% more. (Note that the Millbrook golf course went for $5.5 million with a similar amount of develop-able land (higher density development with sewers). So, my semi educated estimate is that the value lies between $5.2 million and $6.8 million.

What are we paying? 

Cash – $4.5 million + the cost of demolishing the club house and any clean up of hazardous waste.

The “Stump Dump” – The Stump Dump is a 1.6 A parcel that abuts St Marks land and is assessed at $342,000. I think this is a generous assessment but it is an ANR lot so it might be worth that much. I think a reasonable range is $250k to $350k

The Public Safety Facilities on Main St – Putting a value on these is hard. The site is assessed at $2,286,000. A private buyer might be able to rehab the buildings at a reasonable price and put in restaurant/office/commercial/condo space. (Starbucks?) and be able to justify that sort of price tag. It is a large lot in the center of town and could have significant commercial appeal. My best guess is that a reasonable number is between $1.5 million and $2.2 Million. If we pass the reuse of historic building by law these buildings could become more valuable. St Marks also takes responsibility for any hazardous waste clean up.

So where does this leave us.

The golf course is worth between $5.2 million and $6.8 million. We are paying between $6.25 million and $7.05 million. There is certainly overlap between the two ranges. I believe we are paying reasonably close to market for the land. It could reasonably be called a fair deal but not a bargain.

What about the $1,000,000 in savings by not moving the Fire Station?

This appears to be an illusion. In the budgets it turns out this was carried at $500,000. Offsetting this is at least $900,000 in site development costs (water, gas, traffic light) that could be avoided if we remained on the current site or push into the St Marks Meadow (which would also cost money).

If anyone has better analysis please feel free to chime in.

Al Hamilton

1 Concerned Resident February 27, 2017 at 1:47 PM

I’m sorry, Al – are we basing all of your analysis on a “SEMI EDUCATED ESTIMATE?” Your numbers come with a lot of guessing and “I thinks.” It’s ok to have an opinion, but please don’t try to mask that as fact.
I think you can agree there are a lot of unknowns here if we turn this down. You have no idea what a developer will offer. You can guess all day what the land is worth, but a developer will offer whatever they feel reasonable. I’m willing to bet that a developer will pay a lot more to partner with St. Mark’s and to exclude the town from matching their price. That’s my opinion from working in the business world for years.
Are you willing to gamble away the land because of an estimate? Also, Millbrook Golf Course went to 61B. The town not only needed an extension, but voted down the option to buy the land at $5.5 million because they had other projects in town that needed attention. None that I see are as important as their fire and police stations. You can read about that and the aged restricted condos being built there in the linke below: http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/news/20160902/framingham-golf-course-to-be-sold-for-condo-development

2 Al Hamilton February 28, 2017 at 8:42 AM

I think I was pretty clear that these were my thoughts. I had heard a number of folks wanting to see all the numbers in one place to understand if the land portion was a good deal or not. There is some hard data, the assessments are facts, the land areas is a fact and there is some conjecture and analysis.

My conclusion is that we are paying pretty close to a market price for the land. Representations that this is a bargain, in my opinion, are misleading.

If someone else has a different, perhaps better, way of looking at the data or new data I would be very interested in their take. I might be wrong but I think it is a discussion we should have.

3 Jesta Thaught February 27, 2017 at 5:36 PM

St Marks as already indicated they don’t want to sell the Town a strip of land. Eminent domain costs money and time. The school has offered us the use of the current site for up to 3 years rent free saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in the disruption costs we would entail if we tried to operate our current public safety complex while rebuilding at the same time.

4 SouthBorrow February 27, 2017 at 9:03 PM

I don’t think the intent of this exercise is to pin-down exactly what the golf course is worth. Instead, Al is giving us a rough outline of the real costs associated with this transaction. It’s easy enough to say WOW $4.5 Million is a great price for the golf course! But, when you actually consider the land we are giving up and the true costs involved (which it seems like our selectmen are unwilling to do), I’m not so sure we are getting such a bargain. So the real cost of the new Public Safety building is $27 Million plus the $2+ Million of the land we are giving up.

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