Council addresses golf club issue

Golfers finish a hole at the Watertown Golf Club. WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES

WATERTOWN — The city will need to get approval from state lawmakers to connect a sewer line into the Watertown Golf Course for owner Michael E. Lundy.

City Attorney Robert J. Slye confirmed Tuesday night that the city would be required to pursue so-called “home rule” legislation for the sewer line connection to the golf course.

State Assemblyman Mark C. Walczyk, R-Watertown, and state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, would have to introduce home rule legislation, a process that could take months before state lawmakers would consider its passage.

Last year, P.J. Simao, who owns Ives Hill Country Club, learned that the golf club was encroaching on city parkland at Thompson Park, with a septic system, gravel parking lot and cart storage area located on city property.

The sewer line would resolve one of those encroachment issues.

City Manager Rick Finn said Tuesday night that the sewer line connection is preferred over installing a septic system at the golf course, adding a septic tank would be “a potential environmental problem.”

Last year, Mr. Simao filed a lawsuit, alleging that the golf club is using the land without paying any additional rent on its lease with the city.

In June, state Supreme Court Judge James P. McClusky ruled that Watertown Golf Club Inc.’s encroachments onto city parkland were a separate issue from any pertaining to the club’s lease of city land.

On Wednesday, Mr. Simao appealed Judge McClusky’s decision.

Mr. Slye was unaware that the appeal was filed.

“I haven’t seen anything,” he said.

The subject of the golf course encroachment issues came up during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting when Councilwoman Lisa Ruggiero said she was wondering whether “some rumors” she heard were true.

She inquired about why Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr.’s father’s name was still on the liquor license for the golf club and whether it created a legal liability for the city.

Asking her motivation in bringing up the issue, the mayor said that his father, Joseph M. Butler Sr., sold his interest in the golf club to Mr. Lundy and no longer has an active role in it.

Due to some “mix-up,” his father’s name remains only on the golf club’s beverage cart, Mayor Butler said.

The liquor license expires in October, so the mayor doesn’t see it as a big issue.

“I just learned that myself,” the mayor said. “Did I know my dad’s name was on the liquor license? I did not.

“If you got a drink from the beverage car, you can then thank my father,” he said, sarcastically.

Mr. Slye reassured council members that the liquor license doesn’t leave the city in any legal jeopardy.

But Mr. Simao isn’t so sure.

“There’s more to this story,” Mr. Simao said Thursday, insisting that Mayor Butler’s father must still be involved in the golf course if his name is on the liquor license.

Councilwoman Ruggiero also wanted to know when Mr. Lundy was going to complete a new parking lot that would be used by golf club members and the general public.

Mr. Finn said he hasn’t heard from Mr. Lundy about the parking lot for a while and would call him this week to get an update about his plans.

Council members, however, learned that the parking lot won’t have to go through site plan review because it will be considered a city project.

City projects — whether they are in Thompson Park, another city park or any other parking lot it would build — don’t require site plan approval, Mr. Finn said.

Nonetheless, it must go through an environmental review process to determine its environmental impact on the park, he said.

Mr. Simao doesn’t understand why the city didn’t make Mr. Lundy correct all the encroachments before a July 31 deadline.

“I think the city is kicking the can down the road,” he said.

He threatened to pursue more litigation if the city decides to back down on requiring a site plan for the parking expansion project.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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