Golf course delays frustrate Southington homeowners, developer

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SOUTHINGTON — A golf community on Welch Road still doesn’t have a golf course, a frustration to the residents who’ve bought homes there as well as the developer.

Mark Lovley bought the former Pine Valley Golf Course in 2013. He replaced half of the course with nearly 100 homes and planned to rebuild the other half into a nine-hole layout with a new clubhouse. While the homes have been built, the golf course hasn’t been completed.

Some residents of the development, North Ridge Estates, say Lovley hasn’t kept his word about the golf community they were promised. Lovley said he’s spent thousands on a lengthy permit process delayed by the pandemic.

More houses

Lovley bought several plots of land from the former golf club. He and the town agreed to keep a 60-acre portion as open space or a golf course, putting the stipulation on the deed for 370 Welch Road.

A smaller, 5.6-acre parcel along Welch Road was owned by the golf course but wasn’t part of the open space agreement with the town. Lovley is looking for subdivision approval from the town to build four houses there and use two of the lots for the golf course clubhouse and parking.

Several neighbors and North Ridge Estates attended a public hearing on the subdivision proposal on Tuesday. They objected to more houses in the area and brought up the lack of a golf course, along with other concerns.

Robert Hammersley, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, said Lovley’s plan didn’t require a public hearing but that he’d heard complaints from area residents and wanted to let them air their grievances. No vote was taken on Tuesday night and the public hearing was cut short due to time.

‘Buying a lifestyle’

North Ridge Estate owners said the idea of a golf community was one of the main selling points of the development and was featured prominently on advertisements. Homeowners said they still don’t have the course and have had to look at construction debris and dirt piles for the last few years.

“We were buying a lifestyle, that’s what was promised to us. That’s not what we got,” said Pat Antolini, a North Ridge Estate resident who bought his house in 2016. “This man didn’t deliver the lifestyle he promised us.”

Antolini said the new subdivision proposal is on land that was slated to be part of the new golf course.

Robert Calabrese, another resident, said he was drawn to the golf community aspect of the development.

“I don’t think anybody here believes there will be a golf course here at this point,” he said.

Permits and financingdelays

Lovley said he’s committed to a building a golf course. He’s paid about $28,000 a year in taxes on the land rather than abandon the project and donate the property to the land trust or town.

“Nobody knows the money I’ve spent trying to get a golf course,” Lovley said.

To begin construction sooner, he and his engineers designed the subdivision and planned to rebuild the golf course afterwards rather than design the subdivision around existing holes. That was a mistake, Lovely said, since state and federal regulators now consider the golf course and necessary septic and wetlands changes an entirely new course. While he now has the permits, it’s taken years.

“It’s just been a nightmare and a ton of money out the door for nothing,” Lovley said. “It would have been a lot easier to design the houses around the existing golf course. We didn’t think it was going to be this hard to get those approvals.”

While he has approvals, financing has gotten more difficult due to the pandemic. The course will cost more than $2 million, Lovley said. Since banks don’t want to finance banquet facilities, that portion of the plan needed to be changed. Lovley said he’s working with a golf course designer on a clubhouse with a small restaurant instead. The changes won’t affect the permits he’s already received.

“I love golf,” Lovley said. “I’d love to be able to have the thing and build the thing. It’s just the timing.”

The sale of four lots near Welch Road can help finance the golf course, he said.

Vacant course

At Tuesday’s meeting, area residents complained about the overgrown course that has been used as a dumping ground and has attracted off-road motorcycles.

Lovley said he’s had problems with trespassers on motorcycles cutting through the fence near the Forestville Fishing Club property. He’s called police on several occasions.

While the land is open, Lovley said it is private property and that he’d been using fill in some areas.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Lovley said he sent workers to determine if any debris on the property needed to be removed.

Houses and golf courseunrelated

Hammersley reminded neighbors during the commission meeting that their grievances with Lovley over the lack of a golf course didn’t have any bearing on the developer’s latest subdivision application. That property, 300 Welch Road, doesn’t have the deed restriction for open space.

“We cannot consider, legally, anything outside of this parcel,” Hammersley said. “If it meets our regulation, we’re legally obligated to approve it.”

The commission will take up Lovley’s application again at its meeting scheduled for June 15.

jbuchanan@record-journal.com203-317-2230Twitter: @JBuchananRJ


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