St. Mark’s Golf Course update

by beth on January 11, 2017

Tonight, the St. Mark’s Master Plan Committee will be soliciting feedback from abutters and current users of the course. The comments are likely to be very different than the ones received last Wednesday night. At that meeting, the committee heard from Recreation and the Council on Aging.

The Public Safety Committee supports siting a complex in an area of the property far from Latisquama. It also allows for access to potential other buildings and uses on the land.

Since it isn’t on the playing field of the course, it could allow the course to maintained. But there are other interests in Town that are hoping to make use of the land for new municipal buildings.

Meanwhile, some residents have publicly questioned if it is the best/least expensive option for police and fire. In a joint meeting with the SMGCMPC, Public Safety Committee Chair Al Hamilton tried to answer that question.

Hamilton said that weren’t other available sites that met needs for response times to all areas of town, space requirements, and quick/safe fire truck egress.

The Transfer Station property was eliminated for several reasons. Those included the cost of building a bridge for dedicated emergency vehicle egress over wetlands and public drinking water supply. The Town also would have expense of relocating the Transfer Station “pit”. 

The committee’s recommendation had been to use the site of the existing stations, but with some additional abutting land owned by St. Mark’s School.

When the Town approached St. Mark’s about purchasing the land, the school’s board wasn’t enthused. Instead they came back with the offer for a deal that would secure the golf course property for the Town. In evaluating that space, it does fit all the needs.

Committee members also explained that keeping down expenses was a big reason for not building separate stations. By combining complexes they only need to build one mechanical system, one electrical system, and one dispatch area. And they can share conference room space.

Finally, siting one station where the Senior Center (or other Town building) would then require expense of finding new space for those services.

New spaces for senior services, is something Council on Aging member Bill Harrinton hopes they might get on the golf course property.

Harrington was enthusiastic about the idea of building a community center that combines space for the Town’s general recreation needs and for seniors. He said the current Senior Center only provides about half the space they need for programs. One plus of a combined community center would be more intergenerational programs.

The combined center was an idea that the Recreation Department spoke about as ideal. Recreation Director Doreen Ferguson said they are still working on concrete numbers for needs. But her main need was more gym space. And a field house, yoga room, and classrooms would be ideal. Field space was also mentioned. And Ferguson acknowledged that she has a “pie in the sky” wish list that includes other things residents asked for in past surveys. That includes items like a community pool, splash pad, and dog park.

The meeting focusing on abutters’ and users’ feedback is at 7:00 pm tonight at the Senior Center (9 Cordaville Road). Going forward, more feedback will be sought at weekly meetings:

  • January 18: Southborough Open Space Committee and Southborough Historical Commission
  • January 25: Southborough Town Departments, Boards & Commissions (Planning, Assessors, Conservation, Zoning, Health, etc.)
  • February 2: General concerns of all community members
1 Resident January 11, 2017 at 7:00 PM

Unfortunately, the site proposed on the golf course is not “far from Latisquama.” It would be, in essence, in the backyard of quite a few of the homes on Latisquama many of which are historical and have been maintained carefully with respect to the history of the street and the town. Many others on both sides of the street would see the facility as opposed to having views of one of the last open spaces left in this town not to mention one of the oldest golf courses left in MA.

2 Al Hamilton January 12, 2017 at 9:16 AM

There is a presentation on the Public Safety Building Committee web pages that details all the sites that were evaluated for a public safety buildings. It can be viewed here:

http://www.southboroughtown.com/sites/southboroughma/files/pages/ps_building_site_options.pdf

For a combined facility, there really are not a lot of good choices and no perfect one.

3 William T. January 12, 2017 at 9:58 AM

I think everything will turn out fine . It’s a dramatic change and change is hard to get use too. I’d rather a public safety building be near me than who knows what else. I would feel safe knowing help is only seconds away god forbid anything happens. Seconds count in emergencies. You don’t need help until you need it .

4 southsider January 12, 2017 at 10:55 AM

we don’t even own the property yet and the list of “wants'” gets longer! I love the idea of trying to work with the Latisquama abutters and siting the one needed public safety building on the property in a way that allows the golf course to continue to operate. This beautiful open space should remain as open as possible. It truly does create a great first impression of our town.
As for additional Community Centers or Recreation Department buildings, I’d hope the Committee can find solutions that don’t consume open land.

5 Townie January 12, 2017 at 11:40 AM

I think the town should re-organzie the schools and move all offices and grades out of Neary. Tear it down, build a new rec/senior center on that lot of land, or repurpose the building. It’s the perfect location for recreation, sports fields, jungle gym, basketballs courts already in place. Re-zone the current senior center lot to residential and sell it off, while we’re at it, sell the old fire station on Harrington. (the DPW already had a plan to move out when it was up at town meeting last year)

This way the golf course do not get over built, under utilized town properties get new uses, and the town is able to offset the cost with the sale of property that no longer has a use for the town and can now create tax revenue.

6 Frank Crowell January 12, 2017 at 3:36 PM

Are you saying that SB has too many classrooms and can afford to downsize………shrink the school budget……………..fewer teahers…….. higher student to teacher ratios????

Please tell me you are going to ask this at the next K-8 school committee meeting. I will set my DVR. This is a pay per view event in the response you’ll get.

7 Townie January 13, 2017 at 9:42 AM

Absolutely not! I would never ask for fewer teachers or to shrink the budget for any reasons. I’m merely tossing the idea to reorganize what we have and make sure it’s being used most efficiently. It’s not uncommon, pretty much every business has groups or departments that specialize in this very task (they’d be crazy if they didn’t). With the recent move of SAM to Trottier and seeing classrooms at Neary being converted into offices, I just wondered if there has been a good look at our schools to see if they were being utilized to the fullest, as schools.

I single out Neary because of the amount of offices that are housed there and the fact it is the only school that has never been significantly updated.

Here’s what is floating around in my cranium. This town NEEDS a new police and fire station, that’s a fact. The purchase of the golf course is in the best interest for that need. In addition, it’s also in our best interest to preserve of the remaining undeveloped land as open space. It will make for a very scenic and pleasant drive into the center of town while keeping intact the great views for the Latiquama residence. I am 100% for that. I’m completely against even thinking about any other building on that property at this time, and honestly I believe it is killing the very appeal of the possible purchase.

The town also has a WANT list. Recreation wants a new location that better suits their mission. There is also a want for a new senior center.

My idea, after a close look at the schools use of their properties of course, is that Neary be torn down. In its place a multipurpose building(s) (energy efficient please!) that will house offices for the school department, building/zoning, facilities (also a work shop), Health, Young and Family, SAM, as well as new senior center and recreation. It’s the perfect location, and the town already owns the property. With a new central location, old properties can be rezoned and sold as residential. 21 highland, 9 cordaville, 2 harrington, 42 central and its abutting parking lot. Selling off these old buildings will also lower maintenance costs associated with them.

I know, it’s a huge project and there is a lot of what if. But we’ll be better utilizing town owned properties, it solves the needs and wants of the town for years to come without the sacrifice of open space, and actually slowly pays for itself by creating tax revenue from properties sold off.

8 Frank Crowell January 13, 2017 at 2:55 PM

That was a very well thought out piece you wrote. I have just two observations. My experience is:

– Southborough buys property – it does not sell.

– The school system does not give up control of property under its control.

I do like the overall plan.

9 Townie January 13, 2017 at 5:19 PM

Completely agree, Frank. But, I do believe when presented properly, at the appropriate time, it can have a positive outcome.

10 Townie for Elected Office January 14, 2017 at 10:39 AM

Any office!!!
Great fresh ideas!

11 Open Space Advocate January 16, 2017 at 1:15 PM

Completely agree!

12 David Parry January 12, 2017 at 3:11 PM

Momentum for saving the golf course is growing strongly.

Purchasing the golf course is an opportunity we should grasp, for many reasons. It can preserve the single most important open space in our town. This defines the key image of our town … the beautiful rural character of a small town. Because of its location near the center, it adds signficant property value to the entire town. It already provides recreation to young and old. A similar golf course would cost millions to reproduce. It has existed for 125 years.

Many residents are dismayed by suggestions that this land be treated as a construction site for multiple future building projects. These should be built elsewhere.

If we have to sacrifice a small portion for a new public safety building, then it should be done with great care, so that the remaining land can be maintained as a golf course for future generations.

How do we get this done? The cost of modifying the course should be voted at Town Meeting. These costs will be very small compared to the land purchase and the Public Safety building. There will be need for funds for golf course design and reconstruction …. just as there will be votes for funds for design and construction of the public safety building. This is the only way we will have assurance that the course is saved.

Many of us were strongly encouraged in these views after seeing the presentation by the working group of golfers, which incuded golf course design professionals and operators. Thay have prepared preliminary designs for a modification, proving this is viable. Please watch their presentation at forthcoming meetings. Southborough Media taped their presentation at the meeting of Jan 11 before the Golf Course Master Plan Committee. There will be others in future.

13 Donna McDaniel January 19, 2017 at 8:38 PM

Is there an approximate number for gold course users… or members.. now? Just wondering because along with that is not knowing if there would be a lot more golfers if open to non-members? Number helps to evaluate the importance of having course…
(shh… don’t say anything… my druthers would be a swimming pool (even year-round) but I can dream on…
So numbers of golfers will calm my curiosity for now…

14 Jesta Thaught January 25, 2017 at 4:47 PM

First of all I support the purchase of the St Marks golf course. This is a golden opportunity to acquire a significant amount of property in the heart of our downtown.
However I have a couple of issues with the “deal” we are cutting with St Marks. If the Final Proposal published on October 6, 2016 is the whole arrangement that we have agreed to then it appears St Marks is dictating to the town what we can use the land for after we own it. Why are we agreeing with them that the land can only be used for a public safety complex, possible community center, passive land use and 50% “undeveloped”. Shouldn’t that be the owner/taxpayer’s decision?
On the other hand why isn’t the town, in turn, demanding of St Marks that the land they are receiving from the Town not be used for their badly needed parking space for sporting events, graduations and concerts. Let’s also make sure that the Main Street property and the “stump dump” remain “undeveloped”!
Although I am a strong proponent of Open Space areas in Southborough I have a real problem with designating the “center of town” as open space. I have hiked and snow-shoed the Chestnut Hill Farm, Breakneck Hill land and trails around the reservoirs and appreciate their value for all of us citizens and to the “ambiance” of our town. The purchasing this land should be for the use of ALL the citizens of Southborough not just the golfers (many from out of town) or the advocates of open space of which I am one.
The prospect of being able to locate a municipal complex in the center of downtown most towns can only dream about. We should not be looking for pieces of land in outlying areas of town to plunk municipal facilities. They belong in the center of town. A first class combined public safety complex protects the properties and safety of ALL the citizens of Southborough. Here is a chance to place this vital facility near the geographic center of town with direct access to the town’s main artery. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to “do it right” so let’s not “nickel/dime” this project.
In the future, a community center should be constructed on the property to serve ALL the people of Southborough. A community center would include recreational facilities for all the youth and families of the town. Incidentally in the Open Space and Recreation Report of 2009 it states that a “a gathering space for teenagers” should be considered a priority. The inclusion of a senior center would provide space for activities and services for the ever-growing number of seniors in the town. Our current senior center is highly regarded however the building is ill suited for that purpose and has numerous short comings in both layout and infrastructure. A community center would also provide space for the many nonprofit groups in town who always searching for space to hold their events. Looking further into the future if land space allows how about an auditorium that would accommodate all the town meeting attendees in one room. At the same time making available a venue for concerts and other performing arts events. The parcel of land being adjacent to the reservoir trail affords opportunities for contiguous walking pathways and trails.
As I drive into town I see plenty of open space on its’ outskirts. The many reservoirs, conservation lands, tree lined streets and even the adjacent Hopkinton State Park. How many towns have a State Park next door offering all its’ recreational facilities? I would similarly be impressed if I drove into the center of the town and found a municipal complex with numerous facilities serving ALL the people of Southborough.

15 David Parry February 2, 2017 at 9:46 AM

I completely agree with you regarding the inadequate Senior Center. We acquired the present site for that purpose, when I was Selectman many years ago, at a bargain price, I believe under $200,000 total. It was recognized, at that time, that the great assets it provided were its central location, parking, septic, good auditorium space, and good space beneath the auditorium (now used by Board of Health and Building Depts.) However, it was also recognized that the northern, brick portion of the building (a former house) would eventually have to be renovated / rebuilt to accommodate an adequate community / senior center, because it has no public access to the second floor, which is vacant, and is way too small.

But there is plenty of available “footprint” around the existing brick end of the building to accommodate a larger, modern facility. (By “footprint” I mean the building itself, plus the unused lawn area around the side and back, which, if built upon, would allow a new building to be much larger).

In summary, what I am saying is that this remains a good site for a senior center, (or town offices) as originally intended. We just have to be patient, because we have no funds for that kind of project at this time, because the needs of Public Safety have taken priority, at present. Alternatively, the

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