Golf Course: Town Meeting Article for expenses, continued CR holder dispute, and more

Above: Town officials are in conflict over whether the open space and operating golf course would be better protected by co-holding the CR or entrusting it to an outside non-profit. (top photo by Katie Ferguson [with permission], bottom image from club website)

Last Thursday, the Board of Selectmen dealt with multiple issues related to the Town’s new property, St. Mark’s Golf Course. One of those items is the topic of another joint meeting this Thursday.

The Conservation Commission has yet to decide if it will agree to co-hold the Conservation Restriction for the Golf Course. Co-holding the CR is something that Town Counsel and 4 out of 5 selectmen have advised the committee to do.

But it goes against the position of the ad hoc committee that was created to work on the CR. And several residents submitted letters to ConCom asking them to allow Sudbury Valley Trustees be the sole holder of the CR.

BOS Chair Dan Kolenda told ConCom that he has a high bar for not following advice of Town Counsel on the best actions to protect the Town. Selectman Brian Shea raised the possibility of a future conflict between what golf course management sees necessary to run the course and SVT’s interpretation of the CR. In that case, he posited that having a Town entity as co-holder could mitigate the need for lawyers.

Selectwoman Lisa Braccio advised ConCom on why she took the minority position against co-holding the CR. She envisioned a scenario down the road where the public safety building was in potential conflict with the CR. In that case, she described the conflict of interest if ConCom was in an enforcement role. Town Counsel would be advising selectmen who are responsible for the public safety departments. If ConCom disagreed with Town Counsel, it would need to ask selectmen for permission to hire another attorney.*

A continued discussion is scheduled for February 25th at 8:05 pm.

Prior to last week’s joint meeting, selectmen held their own meeting at the Town house. There, the board approved pursuing funding for Golf Course design and construction through an Article at Annual Town Meeting.

The decision was based on a presentation by the Golf Course Committee. The committee presented plans for keeping the course open and running through construction of the Public Safety Building.

There was no draft article presented and the dollar amount wasn’t specified. But the presentation outlined the need for more than $640,000. It includes construction costs, temporary facilities, and for the redesign and construction of two fairways impeded on by the new safety facility.

For more detail on their presentation, you can read Southborough Wicked Local’s coverage.

Selectmen also approved the management contract for the golf club. The company selected is the same one that has been running the club for St. Mark’s.

As, I previously posted, management recommended changing the golf course name. Selectmen indicated they would like to do that. But, they tabled more discussion on forming a Naming Committee until the full board could be present. (Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf was absent.) Expect more discussion on that at their next regular meeting. That is planned for February 6th.

*If that scenario sounds familiar, it’s because the Town struggled over conflicts between the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals in 2016. At the time, Planning maintained that Town Counsel’s advice was constrained by its responsibility advising the ZBA. Selectmen refused to allow Planning to hire outside counsel to advise them on their rights to appeal a ZBA decision.

That led to more problems when Planning filed an appeal against the ZBA and a developer without assistance from any counsel. That led to a counter suit for sanctions by the developer.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
6 years ago

well it didn’t take long for disagreements to start, Like I said in a past post Get the P.S. Building Up and running, worry about the Golf part of it down the road, Have you been in the police station lately? I can’t believe our police dept. has to work in those conditions. what is more important?

David Parry
6 years ago

It is good to see the Selectmen get behind a future Article for Town Meeting, to fund the necessary improvements to make our Golf Course work — as a shortened course, after being severely disrupted by the Public Safety Facility which will use 6 acres of the present course.

The new design for the course is really very good, with no loss of length to hole # 1, and an interesting turn in hole # 9, which are both made possible by using a large area of unused rough land, lying between tee 8 and fairway 9.

This design and cost could not be presented a year ago, because there was no time, then, to fully redesign the course, and to estimate the cost. So this funding is essential, otherwise we will get no golf course and the manicured land will become scrubland full of ticks — very unattractive.

It sounds like a lot of money, but it is very small compared to the funding of the Public Safety Facililty. The PS committee designing the Facility is strongly in support of making the golf course work, and work well. They want to coordinate their construction phasing over the next two summers to accommodate the reworking of the golf course.

The aim is to have no interruption in play, but rather a sequence of temporary fairways during construction of the PS Facility. This is all thanks to the Golf Course Committee and the PS Committee working together, trying to make this effort what it should be — ONE single, attractive project, benefiting the entire town.

6 years ago
Reply to  David Parry

The budget presented to the BOS increases taxes almost 9% and you find comfort spending $640,000 to rearrange the golf course because it’s a very small part of the overall cost of the new public safety building and property?

Al Hamilton
6 years ago

$640k is indeed a lot of money. The question each citizen and taxpayer has to ask is “Is this the highest and best use of the next $640k” that will be raised from the taxpayer? (very roughly $20 from the median home). Is providing golf more important than Full Day Kindergarten? Improved Services for Seniors? Fixing more Potholes? Sidewalks? Long Neglected Building Maintenance?….

Of course, if you do not go to Town Meeting your opinion about this matter do not count. Those that advocate for this expense will certainly organize to support this spending. If you think the money should be spent elsewhere (or stay in your pocket) you need to make your voice heard in the only forum that matters.

SB Resident
6 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

I assume you mean $200 per median home. (640k/3k households.)

Personally I find scrub land full of ticks is just as nice looking as a golf course especially that course which isn’t exactly beautifully manicured. Walking trails cut throughout would allow all town residents to enjoy the land rather than just golfers.

Al Hamilton
6 years ago
Reply to  SB Resident

Thanks for the correction. So much for my reputation as a numbers guy, but what is a “0” between friends, nothing.

David Parry
6 years ago

Do voters remember the reason why there was overwhelming support (about 93 % as I recall), for funding of the new Public Safety Facility, last year ?

It is completely accurate to state this — the reason was because the PS site plan was modified, by shrinking its footprint to 6 acres, and moving it into the far north corner of the course, next to Woodward School. It even overlaps slightly onto the back of Woodward property, and onto the front of the Choate playfield property — all of which has been approved — and all so that the golf course retains sufficient land to make it possible to modify holes 1 and 9, and can continue in operation.

And included in that vote was the purchase of the golf course land from St Marks School, and the Conservation Restriction preserving “our” modified course forever.

The PS project would certainly NOT have passed the necessary 2/3 rds vote, IF the golf course had not been saved. It was teamwork at its best. It was clearly understood that future funding would be needed to modify the course. The outstanding questions were — How much? And what would it look like? This year we will have all these answers, including a combined site plan — showing both the PS facility and the modified course, side by side, on the same sheet, in detail. It is a remarkable feat of coordinated design.

That is why, a year ago, the PS facility received the support of widely diverse groups — not just the public safety departments, but also the downtown neighborhoods, open space preservationists, golfers, recreation, historic preservation, etc. — and all those who simply place a high value on preserving the unique, natural beauty which the course provides, at the entrance to our historic town center.

If you voted “yes” last year, then I really don’t see how you can (in good faith) vote “no” this year. After all, isn’t there a moral obligation to fulfill the promises made a year ago.

6 years ago
Reply to  David Parry

Nope, no obligation when the hands keep dipping in my pocket. I will never, ever use the golf course. I have a VERY difficult time voting $640,000 to move 2 holes. Really? Another $200 a year out of my pocket for a golf course is not in the budget. Those are words we should hear more often in our town administration. I don’t feel any obligation to fix the golf course at that cost.

David Parry
6 years ago

Unfortunately this is another misunderstanding by an anonymous “resident” , who states he/she won’t pay $640,000 to “move two golf holes”(1 and 9).

The misunderstanding is that this funding is NOT exclusively for just modifying two golf holes, 1 and 9.

It is not an extravagance; it is not a luxury; it is a necessity; and it is not just about holes 1 and 9. Please let me explain this further.

The budget includes the RESTORATION of only those EXISTING golf facilities which will be completely and unavoidably DESTROYED by the construction of the new Public Safety facility …. Namely the golf driveway, parking lot, clubhouse, the hookups to septic and water, and parts of holes 1 and 9, etc. …. Just the items needed to make it “whole” again.

Why is the destruction unavoidable? Because of the PS facility location. The PS fraternity have insisted (successfully and justifiably) on provision of a very functional site for their new facility. But that meant destroying some existing golf facilities now located on that site, and therefore there was an implied agreement, made at last year’s Town Meeting, to restore those facilities.

So this budget is a modest REPLACEMENT of the destroyed facilities.

“Modest” is the correct word. Because the clubhouse may be saved and relocated on to a new foundation, and the utility pipes can be tied into a shared septic field, and shared water and electric lines, etc. All possible economies of joint use and construction are being employed to minimize restoration costs.

Thank you for allowing me to clarify the necessity and modesty of this important project, which is supported by the Public Safety supporters because it led to approval of their project , amongst all the other positives.

6 years ago
Reply to  David Parry

I will still vote no on this article at TM. I believe that money can be better spent on other things that have been waiting for funds, like Mr. Hamilton explained. The Golf Course needs to get in line and wait. If that puts the future of it at risk, then Oh well. It’s not a service, or necessity for this town. It’s purely recreational/wanted for a small percentage or residents. There are far more important things we need to be spending that kind of money on that will directly affect everyone in this town.

I really hope every resident asks where the business plan is for the course. How much revenue will it bring it? What are the numbers before St. Marks sold it??? These very important business points seem to be missing. If they aren not missing, why are we not hearing about it them? All we’re hearing about is how much more we need to spend, not how much will be made.


Al Hamilton
6 years ago
Reply to  David Parry


Golf is not a necessity. Schools are a necessity, Police and Fire are necessities, Roads and Public Health are necessities, Golf is a luxury. It may be a luxury that we choose to fund from the public purse but it is a luxury none the less.

Deborah Costine
6 years ago

One of the best ways to stay informed and understand the answers to many of the above questions is to attend some of the public meetings instead of assuming that questions have not been asked. As is usually the case, there’s more to it than some would think.

Andre Fortin
6 years ago

“Townie”, whoever you are, you are a real hard liner.
You make it sound like we are requesting funds to support a decadent life style….
We only seek to restore what has been in place and enjoyed for nearly 125 years now, because a chunk of it has been sacrificed to build the new facility.
It’s really that simple, i.e. restoring golf and passive recreation for all residents.
That said, some of the questions you ask are totally legitimate. I don’t have the hard numbers you seek, but hear me out:
We never asked for the golf course to be altered. The course was fine as it was. We were happy. The Town was happy. St-Marks was happy. And it turned a small profit every year for St-Marks, ENOUGH TO PAY FOR ITSELF.
That’s a fact.
Will the same be able to be said about, what, yet a new soccer field for little kids?, a kindergarten? A bowling alley for seniors?
We are also talking about an historic landmark. As mentioned, a course that has been in operation in town, at the same location, since the late 19th century.
It’s just that now, the 21st century has intervened.
We desperately needed a solution for our police and fire.
St-Marks was in desperate need of the land the town owned.
So a swap was made.
But a hard fought compromise was needed amongst opposite factions in town to get it done. And we did it.
We gave up up 6 acres of the course WITH THE UNDERSTANDING that it would be made whole again. We gambled that the good people of Southborough would do the right thing, and that if they had agreed to pay north of $25 million for a PSB, a majority would surely be agreeable to make the fraction of that available to finish the job and make the course playable again as it had been for nearly 125 years.
It was a risk that didn’t appear to us as being reckless, given the stakes and the need to help find a long term solution for our police and fire.
We were all in it together.
And it’s not like the course is bleeding money. On the contrary, it is self-sustaining, and generates enough income to maintain its beautiful shape and scenic vistas, and can even become an income stream for the town.

But right now, we are stuck on the side of the road, with a flat and no spare tire. Meanwhile, the building we made possible will soon be built, as we had all wished, hoped and voted for.

We have worked closely with the PSB engineers and architects to draw and make plans to make the course whole again. Some of the funds, roughly $30,000., will come out of that budget to fund the clubhouse move. The rest, i.e. digging a foundation, re-locating the parking area, connecting the building to the utilities, is all planned out and sited, but not yet funded. And that will cost roughly $300,000.
Once that is done, the course will be able to re-open for play, WITHOUT INTERRUPTION, thereby guaranteeing that we can maintain it, start making money again and not needlessly jeopardize the future of the course.
And when that phase is over, we will need to re-locate one tee and one green only. This work is vital to re-establish the natural and original beauty of the historic layout and entice new patrons to come and enjoy our course. We have leagues that are just waiting to sign up and that are looking to our course as their number 1 favorite.
But that kind of work, done right, for one tee and one green, is multi-faceted, and requires funding. The estimate for that is roughly $294,000.
When you add it all up, yes it does come up to roughly $640,000, in totality, for all the work mentioned above and the temporary facilities while the construction is in its initial phases.
Again, we didn’t ask for the golf course to take a bullet in order for our first responders to get their new, and richly deserved building. But that’s the sacrifice we had to make in order for the whole thing to work out.

We didn’t think that, after we threw our life line out to save the project, we would be left on the side of the road with no one stepping up to help us in turn.
And the work is vital to get the course operational and profitable again.

I know that, no matter which arguments I make, you will still continue to anonymously push your “vote no” mantra onto the readers of this forum.
And that’s your right.

But, it’s not the right thing to do.

The right thing to do for the future is to:
– Build the public facility as planned on 5 or 6 acres of the open land.
– Restore the altered layout in order to make the golf course whole again, so that it can generate revenue and income stream for the town.
– Place the remaining 54 or so acres, and on which golf is to be played, and passive recreation is to be enjoyed, by all residents , under a Conservation Restriction in perpetuity.

That’s why we need to VOTE YES.

  • © 2024 — All rights reserved.