City of Watertown City Hall. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — The public will get a chance to say what it thinks about plans for a controversial parking lot that the owner of Watertown Golf Club will create in Thompson Park.

A public hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 2 for the planned parking lot that will replace the so-called overflow lot in the park.

The owner of the Watertown Golf Club, developer Michael E. Lundy, is paying the cost for the engineering work and construction of the 70- to 80-spot gravel parking lot, which will include improved lighting.

Mr. Lundy promised to pay for the cost after his competitor, P.J. Simao, who owns Ives Hill Country Club, criticized the fact that golf club members primarily used the existing grass and gravel lot that is on city, not golf club, property.

More recently, Mr. Simao also criticized the city for not better publicizing the public hearing.

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, Councilman Cody J. Horbacz said he wanted to make sure that the public knew that the public hearing was specifically about the parking lot in the historic park.

Councilman Horbacz, who’s been critical of the way the city has handled golf club issues, said he opposes the parking lot, citing the way that the city has handled the process.

“We’re just doing a favor for him,” he said, referring to Mr. Lundy.

City Manager Rick Finn said Tuesday that the city wasn’t trying to hide anything.

“Everything is going to be done above board,” he said.

The project will not have to get site plan approval, but must go through an environmental review process, Mr. Finn said.

Depending on the weather, Mr. Lundy plans to install the parking lot by the end of the year or early next spring.

On the night of the public hearing, city staff will make a presentation about the project before council would vote on it.

In a letter from Mr. Simao’s attorney, Jan S. Kublick posed a series of questions about the project and the way the public hearing was being publicized.

Mr. Kublick wrote: “To what extent is the parking lot being installed to benefit WGC, a private for profit entity with its current operations, or with its future expansion plans?”

When the controversy over the parking lot came up last spring, the city hoped that the controversy over golf club members parking on parkland was resolved by putting up a sign at the location that gives permission for the public to park there, Mr. Finn said.

Earlier this year, Mr. Simao found out that the golf club was encroaching on city parkland at the city-owned park, with a septic system, the gravel parking lot and cart storage area located on city property.

As part of the parking lot project, the septic tank and some piping will be removed from the site, Mr. Finn said.

“The good news: the septic tank and pipes will be gone,” he said.

But the state Legislature will have to approve “home rule” legislation that would then allow the golf club to hook up to the city’s sewer system.

It’s unclear when that process would be completed.

Mr. Lundy, who plans to build a new clubhouse, has remedied some other minor encroachments.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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