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Most Tyngsboro Residents at Hearing Voice Support for Buying Country Club

October 25, 2018 GMT

TYNGSBORO -- Officials heard from many residents Wednesday night on whether the town should purchase the Tyngsboro Country Club, and the message from most was clear: They’re very interested.

The majority of residents who spoke during the public session at Old Town Hall were in favor of the town buying the approximately 85-acre property along Pawtucket Boulevard. They expressed a desire to not only maintain the open space but, in turn, preserve Tyngsboro’s small-town charm. Some were golfers themselves and thanked the owners of the nine-hole golf course for their decades-long contribution to the town and Greater Lowell region.

Still, many questions were raised as residents sought clarification and more concrete numbers. Has a feasibility study been done on the property? What condition is the golf course really in?

Selectmen Chair Rick Reault said many of the points raised would have to be determined at a later time. More than once, he stressed that the purpose of session was to gauge how townspeople feel about pursuing the property.

Tammy Garau and her brother Bobby Spindell, who co-own the golf course, were quiet during the presentation. Garau has said they’re under agreement with Toll Brothers. The company is interested in building a community for adults 55 and older that would have 204 units -- a mix of town homes and detached single-family homes. There are plans to also build on the property a clubhouse, walking trails, and sports courts such as pickleball and bocce.

But because the property on which the Tyngsboro Country Club stands is under the state’s Chapter 61B program, the town of Tyngsboro has the right of first refusal. The program gives preferential tax treatment to landowners who maintain their property as open space for recreation.

If Tyngsboro were to move forward with seeking the purchase of the club, a few funding options were identified. They include:

n A proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion, which would require a two-thirds vote for borrowing at Town Meeting and a majority vote at a townwide ballot in May 2019. According to the lengthy presentation by selectmen, this option provides the most long-term flexibility for the property. Town Administrator Matt Hanson said this option would be the most likely scenario.

n A partial Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion, which would require a two-thirds vote for borrowing at Town Meeting, a majority (or two-thirds for borrowing) from CPC to lower debt service, and a majority vote at a townwide ballot in May 2019. According to officials, this option would severely restrict potential reuse options for portions of the property.

Officials estimated the purchase price of the club to be between $4.5 million and $5 million and said the tax bill increase for the average $345,000 home in Tyngsboro would be $56 a year.

Hanson told a Sun reporter it is very likely that there will be an article in the upcoming Special Town Meeting warrant on whether the town should move forward with purchasing the property.

Tom Varnum, who coaches golf at Tyngsboro High School, brought a few members of the school’s golf team to the front of the hall. “To lose this golf course, we would not realistically have a place to play, and we have 20 student athletes who are golfing with the program,” Varnum said. “A lot of them are freshmen and sophomores who would be affected by this.”

Tammy Garau declined to comment after the public session. David Bauer, division president of Toll Brothers who sat next to Garau and her husband, Glenn Garau, said residents deserve the right to weigh in on the matter.

“We’re still committed to purchase the property and we’re going to continue to work through that,” Bauer said.

“And I’m all for it,” Tammy said.

Spindell, a retired doctor who now lives in Florida, said he had mixed feelings about the benefit for the town.

“We’ve got our financial concerns and our retirements to think about, both my sister and I,” he said. “From my heart, I’d like to see it stay a golf course. It’s been in my family for almost 100 years... I don’t know what’s best for the town that will be comparable to our needs as well.”

Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.