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.