SOUTHINGTON — A handful of town residents supported a plan to preserve Southington Country Club as open space during a Town Council public hearing on the $4.5 million development rights purchase.
The council also voted to hold a referendum on the purchase this spring.
Three board of education members and a former Town Council chairman spoke at Monday night’s public hearing, all supportive of the purchase.
Town leaders proposed a contract with Southington Country Club, a Savage Street golf course whose owners include Raymond Kastner, Joseph Calvanese Jr. and Christopher Calvanese. If the sale is approved, the Kastner and Calvanese families would remain owners of the golf course but would lose the ability to build houses on the nearly 100-acre property. Owners have approval to build more than 100 homes on the golf course.
Town officials made their pitch for buying development rights before the public hearing. Preventing residential growth prevents education system costs, they said, and helps preserve the character of the town.
Colleen Clark, a board of education member, said she was speaking as a South End Road resident and supported preserving the course. She’s lived near the course for more than three decades and said that it provides a place for wildlife in a town that’s more and more developed.
“Being the city of progress doesn’t mean we keep building on all available land,” Clark said, referring to Southington’s motto “city of progress.” “Please keep this space open for all to enjoy.”
Under the proposed contract, any future owners of the property would be prevented from using the land for anything other than recreational purposes such as golf, according to the contract. Owners would also be prevented from subdividing the land. The contract allows the property owners to make improvements to the golf course, if they wish.
There's no requirement to keep the golf course in operation.
Zaya Oshana, a school board member, said more than one hundred homes that could be built on the golf course would mean many more children in the school system.
“That’s a lot of money,” Oshana said. “It’s the impact to the schools, but it’s the impact of the tax dollars as well.”
Michael Riccio, a former council chairman, said the golf course development rights purchase was “the last opportunity we’re going to have in this community to save this large of a parcel.”
The town could borrow the money for the $4.5 million purchase, a move that Riccio supported due to favorable bonding rates.
“I don’t think money in our lifetime has ever been cheaper,” he said. “Bonding really is a no-brainer.”
Buying the golf course outright would cost the town twice the development rights price. Riccio said development rights achieves many of the same preservation goals and allows the town to put other open space money towards more land preservation.
The town charter requires a referendum on projects costing more than $1 million. Voters may decide on the golf course contract during a referendum planned for the spring.