Town could buy Southington Country Club development rights for $4.5M

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SOUTHINGTON — Town officials are considering a development rights purchase for Southington Country Club, a $4.5 million deal that would prevent housing construction on the 90-acre golf course.

If approved by town officials, the plan would require the support of voters at a referendum.

Buying development rights would leave the golf course in the hands of its owners but would prevent them from changing the land’s use. Southington officials bought development rights to Hawk’s Landing Country Club, an 88-acre golf course, for just under $1 million in 2015 and a horse farm on Laning Street late last year.

Paul Chaplinsky, open space acquisition committee chairman and a Town Council member, said the Southington Country Club deal preserves undeveloped land, provides a wildlife corridor, protects drinking water and maintains a recreational draw in town.

There’s also already a plan to put 114 houses on the golf course that has town approval. The development rights purchase would prevent those houses from being built.

“Opportunities like these don’t come up very often where you have such a large tract of land that’s developable, that already has development approvals,” Chaplinsky said. “This checked all the boxes.”

Southington Country Club

Owners of the golf course received approval for a subdivision 14 years ago and got an extension to their approval in 2016. At the time and in subsequent interviews, owners including Raymond Kastner said the hope was to continue running the golf course and Back Nine Tavern but that subdivision approval increased the land value by $4 million and improved their ability to raise loans for course improvements.

Other owners include Joseph Calvanese Jr. and Christopher Calvanese.

Two years ago, Kastner told the Record-Journal that town officials have suggested development rights purchases over the years. On Monday, he said it was early to talk about the plan since it needed approval from multiple town boards.

Referendum, land value

Approval to subdivide the golf course expires this fall. Chaplinsky said any referendum on the development rights purchase would take place before that, possibly in the spring.

The Town Charter requires a referendum on purchases greater than $1 million. Chaplinsky said there will likely be a public hearing on it at a February council meeting.

“Something of this magnitude, we want to make sure we’re getting public input,” he said.

The town had development rights for the land appraised which resulted in a $4.7 million valuation. Course owners agreed to a $4.5 million deal. Chaplinsky was glad the Kastner and Calvanese families were willing to work with the town on the price.

”I think the opportunity is fair,” Chalplinsky said. “I completely support it.”

Town officials have targeted preserving undeveloped land and preventing further residential growth and the public costs for education and services that new residents bring.

“What we hear is that residents are concerned about major housing developments,” said Chris Poulos, a Town Council and open space committee member. “There is a huge push for the preservation of open spaces or just more natural areas like the golf course.”

There’d be “major implications” to the school district if homes were built on the course.

“We have to weigh, do we want that as a possibly or do we want to spend some money to prevent that?” Poulos said. “I see the benefits of having the development rights, and I also see the hesitation people might have spending the money. My view is, you let the taxpayers decide.”

Chaplinsky said the deal would go to the Board of Finance for review in addition to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

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