Council blamed for golf ‘mess’

Developer Michael E. Lundy presents conceptual plans on Tuesday for improvements at the Watertown Golf Club. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — Developer Michael E. Lundy blames “political antics” for last summer’s controversy involving Watertown Golf Club members parking on city-owned land in Thompson Park.

He faults City Council members Lisa Ruggiero and Ryan Henry-Wilkinson and former Councilman Cody J. Horbacz for causing him to abandon his plans to redo an overflow parking area that would be used by club members and the public alike.

Instead, he’s proposing a gravel parking lot that will create 50 new spaces that would not encroach on city parkland by creating it on his property and specifically for club members to use.

As a result, he predicts Thompson Park users will park their vehicles along park roads. Winter park users also won’t have a convenient place to park to go snowshoeing and cross country skiing, he said.

Mr. Lundy thinks the three ended up causing “a really big mess” that he says were caused by “political antics.”

“It was not thought out very well at all,” he said.

For months, the overflow parking area was the subject of debate between council members, while they also faced the threat of legal action from Mr. Lundy and P.J. Simao, the owner of competitor Ives Hill Country Club.

During the dispute, council members put up a “public parking” sign in June that allowed the public and club members to park there and then reversed their decision and ordered it removed a few months later.

The issue became a political hot potato after it was discovered that the golf course was encroaching on city parkland.

In response, Councilwoman Ruggiero said council members had no choice to handle the issue over the encroachments.

“We had to look out for the best interests of the city and the best interest of the taxpayers,” she said.

Mr. Lundy’s comments came after he made a presentation on Tuesday to the city’s Planning Board on the improvements he plans to complete at the golf course.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Mr. Lundy told Planning Board members that he’s already made major improvements to the existing clubhouse so he is leaning toward not building a new one.

He hopes to return to the Planning Board next month to seek site plan approval, so he can start work on the $80,000 parking lot this spring and complete it before the golf season starts.

Plans also call for a building that will include an outdoor bar with restrooms, and another structure at the first tee to greet golfers before they begin to play.

He has hired Cazenovia resident Barry Jordan, who has designed golf courses all over the state, to redesign the golf course, adding that Thompson Park provides “great views.”

“We know we really have a great piece of property,” he said. “We really want to be a part of Thompson Park. Our intent is to be a premiere golf course.”

According to the “sketch plans,” he’ll remedy the encroachments.

He already demolished a building where golf carts were stored. They will be stored in a new structure located over the pad of the original pro shop.

He will install a leachate field instead of connecting into the city’s sewer system on city property. A septic tank would be completed.

Mr. Lundy owns holes one through six and 16 to 18 of the course at Thompson Park, while the city owns the other nine holes, with the developer leasing the land on which the remaining holes sit.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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