Residents Take Swings at Golf Course Vote in Tyngsboro
TYNGSBORO -- With a Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion ballot question looming, residents on Tuesday had their chance to ask town administration any and all questions about the Tyngsboro Country Club.
Voters heading to the polls at the Annual Town Election on May 14 will be met with the ballot question which, if passed, will allow Tyngsboro the ability to borrow the full amount necessary to purchase the country club co-owned by Tammy Garau and her brother, Bobby Spindell. A simple majority is needed for the ballot question to pass.
Town Administrator Matt Hanson on Tuesday gave residents a detailed overview of the town’s options during the tail end of the Pre-Town Meeting and Tyngsboro Country Club Information Session held at Old Town Hall at 10 Kendall Road. According to Hanson, the expected total purchase price would be $4 million for the golf course parcels. There are also two riverfront parcels included in that purchase price that are unbuildable.
Hanson said the town purchasing the property to run as a golf course is the only option that preserves the main 85-acre Tyngsboro Country parcels. All other options lead to some form of residential development.
Though the owners have been under agreement with Toll Brothers for the company to build a community for adults 55 and older, Tyngsboro has the right of first refusal because the property on which the country club stands is under the state’s Chapter 61B program. This program gives preferential tax treatment to landowners who maintain their property as open space for recreation.
While Tuesday’s information session was organized mainly to clear up misunderstandings and answer questions, residents peppered it with their opinions.
“I don’t want to let the golf course go, but I don’t want to overpay. It’s our money,” said longtime resident Darryl Wickens. “I want to make sure we make the best deal.”
After one resident received applause for speaking in favor of purchasing the golf course, resident Diana Keohane offered an opposing view.
“I just want to point out that the Toll Brothers’ proposal for $4.85 million was based on us changing our zoning, and there was no way this town is gonna change the zoning for that land,” Keohane said. “I know that somehow we got the numbers to get close to $4.something million, but that property is not worth $4.85 million.”
If the town were to pursue a purchase of the golf course, Hanson said it would be able to apply for grants not available to private developers. He has stressed that the town is pursuing options to reduce the long-term borrowing costs.
Some new revenue or use options for the property include adding walking trails, winter cross country skiiing, or leasing portions of the property for a new function hall and/or restaurant.
In an email late last month to The Sun, Toll Brothers Division President David Bauer said that the company is still in an agreement to purchase the property. “This agreement contemplates the 204-home community that was previously presented at various town meetings,” wrote Bauer on April 29, adding that Toll Brothers is awaiting a final determination on whether the town will purchase.
The company also proposed an alternative plan for 66 detached 55-plus homes on a smaller portion of the property. “Under this scenario, the Town would purchase approximately 60 acres of open space, in lieu of buying and operating the entire golf course,” Bauer wrote. “This scenario would generate an estimated annual tax surplus of $550,000 to the Town. Note there is no agreement in place for this alternative and it would need to be negotiated between all parties involved.”
Both aforementioned options would require a zoning change.
Bauer said town leadership has been transparent and collaborative in evaluating what is in the best interest of its residents. “While we respect the Town’s right to purchase, we remain hopeful to have an opportunity to build an active adult community here,” he said.
The presentation Hanson gave will soon become available on the town website, www.tyngsboroughma.gov . A sample ballot is already uploaded onto the website for viewing.
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.