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Golf Driving Range Proposed for Spence Farm Parcel

Proponents present range as way to control flooding, and as an alternative to a housing development there.

A group of residents is proposing to control flooding in homes in the area with an alternative to a housing development—a golf driving range.

Several members of the group—Save Spence Farm!—presented the proposal Thursday night for a 14-acre parcel of undeveloped land off Wyman Street. That parcel is across the street from the part of Spence Farm that the city bought several years ago. and are held on the farm stand site.

About 90 people gathered last night at the farm stand to hear the proposal.

“This is the last chance to control flooding in this area,” Vincent Grillo told the audience. Development, including the paving of the parking lot off Main Street, has worsened homeowners’ water problems, according to Grillo. Undeveloped land can absorb water, he said.

Financially, revenue from a golf driving range would cover the cost to buy the land and operate the facility—and even bring some additional money in to the city, Grillo told the audience.

“This pays for itself,” he said.

The group anticipates that a driving range would be successful, financially. If it wasn’t, Grillo said, the proposed use of the land is “reversible.”  The land could, for example, be sold.

Ward 3 Ald. Mark Gaffney came up with the idea of the driving range, speakers said. Gaffney said he thought of it because he’s been involved with golf since he was a kid.

A professional golf management company would have to provide community events, according to the proposal, such as free golf camps for Woburn youths. The city would set conditions on the use of the land, the speakers said.

Time is of the essence to gather support for the proposal, according to the speakers. A developer has reportedly signed an agreement to buy the 14-acre parcel of land.

The city has a first right of refusal on the property, according to the discussion.

Some people prefer keeping the land in its current state, according to Grillo.

That isn’t an option, Grillo said. The two choices, he said, are either a new housing development or the driving range.

Members of the Save Spence Farm! group encouraged those in the audience to contact Mayor Scott Galvin to urge him to support the proposed driving range.

Last night’s presentation will be repeated this coming Saturday, Jan. 28, at the farm stand, starting at 2 p.m., Grillo said, for people who were unable to attend last night’s meeting.

Members of Thursday night’s audience asked about a dozen questions. 

Some people were concerned about the driving range expanding, with lights, for example.

We would put in restrictions, Grillo said.

After the meeting, several audience members told Woburn Patch that they would like to keep the land undeveloped. Like Julie Smith. She’d love to retain open space in the city, she said. Financially, with both land prices and interest rates low, now would be a good time to buy the land, said Cheryl Tierno.

The Save Spence Farm! group’s Facebook page indicates 700 “likes,” Grillo told Woburn Patch.

Alaina Huxtable January 27, 2012 at 12:59 PM
would like to see it as Conservation Land.
Susan Keeley January 27, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Conservation land is a brilliant idea, Alaina. If it's to be turned into a grass mono-culture, however, far better to have it become soccer and baseball playing fields that would benefit a greater percentage of Woburn's population. The choice between private golf enterprise and tract home development is a sad one.
Vince Grillo January 27, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Susan, I agree that this is a very sad choice. But the land is now under agreement for a proposed housing development that will go forward if nothing is done. The city having already spent significant money to purchase one Spence Farm parcel and Whispering Hill has no further resources for another purchase. With the driving range option the city will own the land and then, one day, it will be available for a better purpose. And please remember that a primary concern is also to prevent the horrendous flooding of the homes in that area.
Barbara Burnes January 27, 2012 at 03:53 PM
I would like walk path like Horn Pond
Donna Nagle January 27, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Golf, walking, perhaps a duck pond that could be used for skating in the winter. A beautiful space that could be used for outdoor public gatherings.
Amanda Kersey January 27, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Woburn residents: do you agree with Mr. Grillo that the only options for this parcel are a new housing development or the driving range? Or do you think the city could find a financially sustainable way to put in a path, sports fields or a duck pond, as other readers have suggested?
Vince Grillo January 27, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Hello Amanda, Thank you for your interest, I think you're request for other financially sustainable uses is great. Our small neighborhood group has been trying to find one for quite awhile. We have contacted non profit land trusts and cities that are operating farms such as The Food Project, Trustees of Reservations, Land’s Sake, The Trust for Public Land, and looked into a host of other alternatives. We have communicated with city officials and have come to understand from them that there is no way to obtain the land unless the project will fund itself. Unfortunately money is scarce and the time to be considered for grants etc is long. At this point a decision must be made within the next 90 days. If there is a financially viable option available in that time frame we would gladly support it.
Pat OReilly January 28, 2012 at 03:54 AM
A driving range is a very creative and straightforward way to pay for the land and keep future open space options open for the City. If the math works, then it works.
Jillian Borden April 02, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I think that fee based activities. for example, skating rink charge $3 each person, dog park $3 each dog...show your "pick up after the dog bags", baseball fee, soccer fee? And there the fields do not have to be over the top. Kids can bring their bats, balls and based to play. What about a community gardening space? These are activities that everyone is interested in which could contribute to paying for the maintenance of the area. How about a communty fund raising event? It is such a shame to watch all the Spence farm property disappear. What if we could reduce the tax burden for open community space?

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