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Mayor Has Concerns About Golf Driving Range on Spence Farm Parcel

Among them: Cost and a driving range in a residential neighborhood.

Mayor Scott Galvin has reservations about of former land off Wyman Street into a golf driving range.

The group Save Spence Farm! made the proposal public Thursday night as a way to head off what they say would be more water in local homes if new homes are built on that parcel and to keep the land undeveloped. The group proposed that the city buy the land, instead of a developer, and have a golf management company operate and maintain a driving range there. The group says the venture would cover the cost to buy the land, the range's operation and maintenance and even bring money into the city.

Galvin pointed to several issues.

Like the cost to buy the land. The city would have to meet the price offered by a developer:  $4.5 million, Galvin said.

That’s “a lot of money” for the land, Galvin said Friday morning in a phone interview.

Further, income from the driving range is not guarantee, he said.

“This is not a slam dunk,” said the mayor.

Galvin and the City Council are the most “proactive”—and their efforts “unprecedented”—he said, to buy and preserve open space in the city. The city bought across the street from the proposed driving range for $2.4 million, Galvin pointed out and for $6.7 million. 

Galvin also has reservations about locating a driving range in a residential neighborhood, because, he said, of noise and traffic.

As for the water in local basements, Galvin said a dredging project is in the works. A company is delineating streams in the area now, he said. After that part of the project is done, around April, Galvin projected, the waterways will be dredged.

“No doubt there are flood issues in that area,” Galvin said, and “Development has to be a cause of it.”

Proposals to subdivide land go to the city’s Conservation Commission and Planning Board, Galvin pointed out. Engineers from the city and the applicant both review the proposals, he said.

Buying the land would need a two-thirds vote of the City Council, Galvin said.

Executing a “first right of refusal” to buy the land would also need City Council approval, he said.

Galvin also has a vote in those decisions, he said.

Adding to Galvin’s reservations about the proposal:  the timing. The city has 120 days from late December to exercise the first right of refusal, Galvin said. Within that period, the city would have to enter a purchase and sale agreement to buy the land in question and to match the developer’s dollar offer, Galvin said.

Two local companies, Melanson and Gately, have formed a partnership—technically a limited liability company—to buy the land, Galvin said.

What about the point raised Thursday night that a driving range is a reversible land use?  That is, if a driving range didn’t work out, the land could be sold?

Once a city owns land, Galvin concluded, it’s tough to sell it.

D January 27, 2012 at 09:02 PM
"Once a city own land it's tough to sell it?". This seems like an obfuscation, if it was so tough to sell, there wouldn't be a buyer in the works. Frankly I don't see how the traffic and noise of a driving range is going to be any greater than 34 houses packed in together. The mayor just seems to be making excuses.
Vince Grillo January 28, 2012 at 01:36 PM
I respect the mayor’s position that he must be vigilant for the fiscal health of our city & greatly appreciate that he worked hard to obtain Spence Farm & Whispering Hill. But I would like him to consider information that we believe is essential. The land cost is $4.5 million but in this economy that is likely to be the lowest price ever & the city’s borrowing cost is also at its likely lowest point ever. Other communities have taken this opportunity to buy land & “bank it” against future use or, if needed, resell it at a profit. Several studies show the cost of increased services in a close suburban setting always exceeds additional tax revenue generated. With about 60 new houses going in along Wyman St. we should get ready to build another new, bigger school – among other city services. So which is really the most costly alternative? It seems noise from 34 lawn mowers & leaf blowers along with the other noises of daily living would exceed a quiet game like golf - they even whisper on TV. Traffic, with 2 or more cars in every garage & daily trips to & from work/school, service, maintenance, FedEx, UPS, etc – that would be a toss up. So let’s let the neighbors decide which they would prefer. The neighbors we have heard from are pretty tired of waiting for flooding relief. If owning this land would in someway be helpful to the drainage projects that have been in the works that is a win-win. With all due respect, Vincent Grillo
David Eggleton January 28, 2012 at 06:06 PM
D, I suspect that selling land as a private owner is always distinctly different from selling as a taxpayer-supported entity, if only because the number of concerned parties* goes way up. It becomes a political matter, the stuff of election challenges. The mayor is right to have and express concerns. All of us have a right to respond to them the best we can. We know this mayor has been responsive. * I avoided using the term "stakeholders", because I believe that number is actually the largest of all. Stakeholders include people who will live in Woburn in the future, who cannot speak up now.
David Eggleton February 08, 2012 at 09:26 PM
It seems the (large) area of concern is like one pitcher or gravy boat (holds liquid that departs by way of a single spout). In such a condition, it really doesn't help if all precipitation gets into the ground of the properties upon which it falls because once in the ground, it joins all the formerly "sub-divided" water in that one vessel. The law says the place of percolation matters, but common sense says the rate of departure from the vessel is what matters. The people who live in the area are almost literally in the same boat. I hope common sense prevails.
David Eggleton February 08, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Upgrade: "formerly" coulda/shoulda been "momentarily" One weather event, separate lots, one pool of groundwater.

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