SOUTHINGTON — Town voters approved a land rights purchase for Southington Country Club in Tuesday’s referendum, a $4.5 million deal that prevents housing development on the 100-acre golf course.
About 10 percent of eligible voters turned out for the referendum held at Derynoski School. There were 2,419 votes in favor and 719 against.
Turnout was better than the last mid-year special referendum, according to Republican registrar August Palmer. Less than seven percent of voters came out for the March 2012 referendum that approved nearly $90 million for the renovation of the town’s middle schools.
“This was a pretty good turnout,” Palmer said of Tuesday.
In addition to in-person voting, there were also 42 absentee votes as well as five taxpayer votes. Those five consist of out-of-town residents who own at least $1,000 of Southington property or taxpayers who aren’t registered to vote. Palmer said such taxpayers can vote on referendum questions related to finances.
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.
Once a contract is signed, the Kastner and Calvanese families will remain owners of the golf course but 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 to the public and civic groups. Preventing residential growth prevents more education system costs, they said, and helps preserve the character of the town.Town, party support
Victoria Triano, Town Council chairwoman and a Republican, said she was glad voters supported the referendum by three to one.
“This referendum was approved by the entire Town Council, Republican and Democrat, the whole Board of Finance, Republican and Democrat, the Planning and Zoning Commission,” she said. “It was not a partisan thing. I’m so glad the voter saw this wasn’t a partisan thing. It was a Southington thing.”
Erica Roggeveen Byrne, Democratic Town Committee chairwoman, said she was encouraged by the turnout.
“That bodes well that people are engaged and thinking about what they want of the future of Southington,” she said.
Town leaders visited meetings of civic groups to explain the benefits of the development rights purchase. Triano and council member Paul Chaplinsky also had a tent at Derynoski School where they explained details of the referendum.
“I think that was very important,” she said. “We had tons of people stop at the tent.”Signs in support
Triano also credited signs throughout town that lent support for the purchase and reminded people to vote.
“Those signs were very effective,” she said.
The signs had messages such as “stop overcrowding” and “keep taxes low.” Roggeveen Byrne and Triano said the signs weren’t made by their parties. The signs themselves have no indication of who paid for them, which isn’t a requirement for signs smaller than 32 square feet, according to State Elections Enforcement Commission spokesman Josh Foley.