Several residents are working to preserve the St. Mark’s Golf Course. In their efforts, two groups have taken a different approach. Both are being pursued through Citizen Petition Warrant Articles for the Special Town Meeting on March 8th.
Some residents worked on a plan for making minor changes to the golf course that would allow play to continue alongside a new public safety building. In support of that plan, former selectman David Parry submitted a Citizen’s Petition article. It asks to conserve all of the golf course land, except for the section allotted for the new complex.
According to Southborough Wicked Local, other residents have submitted a petition asking voters to buy the land while preserving the course in its current state. That option wouldn’t allow for the building of a Public Safety Complex or any other municipal buildings on the 60 acres.
The land deal as offered by St. Mark’s School includes them taking over the property where police and fire are currently stationed. The article asks selectmen to renegotiate a deal without the land swap.
Some abutters and golfers are upset at plans that would develop any piece of the land. Now they have been publicly joined by non-abutting proponents of Open Space. SWL quotes Freddie Gillespie:
It is a gateway to town and we feel like having a portion of it developed will take away from the historic landscape and view
SWL also posts that the petition claims the purchase cost would be covered by the golf course’s revenue. FAQ’s on their website saveourgolfcourse.org explain why petitioners think the plan can work:
the architects advising the Public Safety Study Committee, after years of effort and thousands of dollars of expense, determined that the best location for a new complex would be on the site of the current fire and police stations. . .
St. Mark’s School was bequeathed [the golf course] property from the Choate family over 100 years ago and has taken care of it ever since. We believe they can be good partners in this process. We want our town officials to continue positive negotiations with St. Mark’s to acquire the Golf Course for the town— without a land swap.
Meanwhile, residents John Wilson and Andre Fortin publicly presented how small modifications would allow the golf course to operate alongside a Public Safety Building. The presentation was made at last week’s St. Mark’s Golf Course Master Plan Committee Meeting. The costs would purportedly be repaid by user fees within a few years.
Presenters pointed out that advocates for building recreation facilities at the site are ignoring that golf is community recreation. And golf courses are disappearing as owners sell the land for more profitable development.
Wilson said he and Fortin were speaking on behalf of golf course members, including about 15 of them attending. He said they would like to see the course preserved as is. But they researched a viable backup option. Their plan would allow the Public Safety Building while still maintaining the integrity and identity of the course.
As currently planned, a new building would interfere with path of the #1 hole, and the 9th fairway and green. A well known golf course architect Brian Silva helped them work out one potential solution with minor changes and said there may be other possibilities.
As a Southborough native who played his first round on the course, Silva is interested in helping them. Silva purportedly said the course had “real jewels” and he would be proud to include any of the holes in his own “toolbox”.
The group researched costs for the changes, plus a new parking lot, a driveway for golfers. They estimated about $250K. They said that the course would be able to cover that and ongoing operations, though not in the first year.
Wilson said the golf course generates a little over $200K in revenue now. Some commenters wondered if their plan to replace the club house with a trailer (due to space constraints) would turns some golfers away.
Parry’s petition in support of the plan includes the draft explanation:
This Article will place a Conservation Restriction (CR) on all land of St Mark’s Golf Course EXCEPT the small parcel proposed for a Public Safety Facility. The CR will preserve the entire remaining land area as open space, and will allow the golf course to be modified so that it can continue in operation. The Article will be withdrawn if the Selectmen’s Article to purchase the golf course is NOT approved.
Click here for the full article to preserve the golf course alongside a public safety building.
Click here for the SWL post on the other article to preserve the entire 60 acres.
And stay tuned for more news coming soon on the public safety building.
Updated (1/19/17 ): Two items:
I’ve heard debate among residents about the Town’s rights to buy the land through “first right of refusal” if the deal doesn’t go through. Hearing different facts, I asked Town officials for clarification. Assessor Paul Cibelli responded:
If a taxpayer has land enrolled in Chapter 61A or 61B and chooses not to file their annual application (thus removing the property from chapter land designation), pays taxes for one year at the market rate, they can sell it and the Town would lose its right of first refusal. The property could be subject to roll back taxes which has a 5 year look-back and is triggered by a change in use. Roll back taxes are basically the difference between the chapter value and market value of the property.
Now, here is the language from the citizen’s petition article to fully preserve the golf course:
“To see if the Town of Southborough will vote to (state your request), or do or act
Support purchasing approximately 61-acres St Marks’ Golf Course located at 36 Cordaville Road for perpetual preservation of the entire property with no future development allowed and a conservation restriction required on the entire property at time of purchase. To achieve this, the Selectmen shall renegotiate the purchase agreement for the property with no land swap involved, and bring to voters at the 2017 Annual Town Meeting. The Conservation Restriction (CR) purpose shall be to preserve high-quality open space for the benefit of the town, protect historical scenic views and wildlife habitat, while preserving a golf course and passive recreation. Said CR to be developed immediately following Special Town meeting with Selectmen to appoint a Conservation Restriction Development Committee made up of 7 members only, with 1 member representing each of the following constituencies: the Open Space Preservation Commission, Historical Commission, Conservation Commission, Recreation Commission, Planning Board, a Direct Abutter, and a member of the Golf Community. The Selectmen also to work with the Open Space Preservation Commission, Planning Board, and Community Preservation Committee to develop a finance package that includes applying for CPA funding, using Golf Course revenues to offset purchase price, and applying for State grants.
, or do or act anything in relation thereto.”