This page contains questions residents have had about the Norfolk Municipal Golf Course. The first list is mine, the second list is one developed independently that we attached with permission.
- Natick course not doing as well
- as hoped, either (7/24/02 Metrowest Daily News). Club pro Pete Meagher was hoping for better the first year, "I thought with the market in New England it would be a lot busier. ... It certainly didn't live up to my expectations."
- Walpole decides against golf course
- Town residents voted 3,255 to 2,147 against allowing their golf committee to continue their feasibility study for an 18-hole course located on the former Adams Farm (by North St.).
- Walpole looking to build
- a municipal golf course (5/12/02 Boston Globe) (two groups, one studying 100 acres near Norfolk for a 9-hole course, a town committee looking into an 18-hole course)
- Abutters' experience
- with the Natick Municipal Golf Course (5/12 Boston Globe) (assessments doubled, mowers at 7am daily, voices at 5am; residents find comfort in moving: ``You can take the money and run when you sell. It's not too much to cry about.'')
- Golf Study Committee Page
- The web site created for the Golf Study Committee as part of the Communication Plan intended to improve the dialogue between the GC and its skeptics. In particular, the documents page contains some of the transcribed work product of the committee.
- The BSC Report
- The wetlands consultants' feasibility report, dated 4/27/2001, that cast a pall on the possibility of an 18-hole course. These results did not make it into wide public circulation until five months later, when posted to the web site in late September/early October 2001.
- My (the Webmaster's) analysis
- My notes on what I see as the major unaddressed issues facing the golf course.
- The archived golf course discussions
- that have taken place on Norfolknet.
- detailed technical review
- PIP group's analysis of how the CDM report filed with the DEP fails to meet state environmental law and DEP rules governing contamination cleanup. This is a very detailed and technical document addressing specific sections of the CDM RAO with references to state law showing what work was perfomed vs. what was required. Very thorough, very technical, very air-tight.
- Executive summary of results of technical review
- PIP group's memorandum to the Town regarding the review of the CDM RAO filed on the Buckley/Mann property. Briefly summarizes the conclusions reached in the technical review.
- PIP group Q&A sheet
- PIP group's informational description of why the issues relating to the Buckley/Mann property are important to the Town.
- Issues in Plain English
- PIP group non-technical summary of the RAO filed by CDM. This is the non-technical counterpart to the detailed, technical review, and lists the shortcoming without resorting to specialized technical language. detailed technical review and the summary were written by an environmental expert with sufficient qualifications to have conducted the remediation and written the original report.
- Unmet legal requirements
- PIP group critique of the RAO filed by CDM with the DEP, listing some critical omissions and referencing state law by paragraph number. This is the slide with the question that was up when the CDM consultant shut off the projector instead of answering.
- NGF Study
- The feasability study prepared by the National Golf Foundation, which was commissioned in an attempt obtain reputable expert opinion on the subject of whether the golf course as proposed would be economically feasible and advantageous.
Questions regarding the Town Golf Course
My original list, 7/8/01
Sheesh, I never paid any attention to anything having to do with this town golf course until after it got voted in, when we started getting all the posts about it! But now, the more I hear, the curiouser the picture becomes, and I've started this page to gather the questions that I've come across about it. If your questions are not yet listed, and especially if you can answer some of them, please write us! - Wm.
- If the financial projections do not materialize, at what point will the town cut its losses, declare the venture failed, and abandon the project? Or is this a potentially limitless sink of funds?
- How was the $10.5 million figure arrived at? Where can the detailed, item-by-item analysis of the course construction costs be found, to verify the assumptions underlying the total?
- Has a detailed, broken-down by line-item, cost analysis been made of the operating costs, and where is this information available?
- I heard the Buckley-Mann property is rather contaminated. What is known about this property, and just how bad are things?
- A proper feasibility study, which I presume was done, would have looked at the cleanup costs involved in remediating the Buckley-Mann property to make it usable as a recreational field. What amount was budgeted for it, and is that amount included in the $10.5 million course cost?
- Why is a (possibly heavily) contaminated industrial property worth $30,000 per acre, when that's close to the price of clean, buildable residential lots?
A: Land purchase costs, in case anyone is interested. Pending full permit approvals the Buckley and Mann property, 142 acres, will be purchased for $3.55 million or $25,000 per acre; Larusso property, 72 acres, $750,000 or $10,416 per acre. I don't understand the disparity in per acre costs. Also, 6 acres of abandoned property critical to the building of the course will need to be taken by eminent domain. Back taxes of $20,00 are owed on this 6 acre property. The total land purchase will be 210 acres for $4.3 million plus back taxes on the 6 acres. - RN
- Could a competing golf course cause the developer of the proposed 9-hole course to pull out, and how would this affect town finances? (And, since I'm not a golfer and I don't understand these things, does a town need two golf courses?)
How much additional traffic will the small, quiet residential streets have to accomodate? Here are some back-of-the-envelope figures:
If Lawrence St. is the access route to 100 houses (my rough estimate), and each house makes three outings during the day (again my guess; work, morning out, afternoon out), that's 600 cars-trips by residents. (But I don't think there are as many as 100 houses back there, so it could well be fewer.) In either case, the course looks to more than double traffic in the neighborhood, and possibly much more than double it.
- I've heard a projection of 4 people starting every seven minutes (for 18 holes in two hours, I guess). Over the course of a 10-hour day (plus two to finish), this is 340 people arriving and leaving, not including staff, or XXX720 more cars seen on the road per day.
A: 4 people per 7 minutes, but two foursomes on each hole, and four hours to finish; also, 340 times 2 is 680 - RN
- I would expect the parking lot to eventually be half to two-thirds full during the day (else why make it so huge?), so if it will fit XXX275 cars, that's about XXX180 people on the course, ie. up to XXX1800 additional car trips seen over a ten-hour day.
A: parking lot is sized for 200 cars; 4 x 2 x 18 people on the course + 4 to 8 more foursomes waiting to tee off, plus 6 to 8 staff, or 184 present - RN
[Ok, 144 on the course, and turnover in four hours, so about 360 in 10 hours' worth of starts (14 hour day). Or, by capacity, 166 x 10/4 or 415 golfers per day at 2/3 capacity, 438 at 3/4 capacity, with each person present accounting for two car trips (total of 720, 830 or 876 trips by golfers, plus 25 or so by staff). I'm assuming carpooling will be numerically insignificant. Note that these numbers are very sensitive to turnover, ie. the time it takes to play one round. If the time per round were only 3 hours, 33% more people could play per day - Wm.]
A: The highway department counted 1118 and 1219 cars pass by on June 15 (Friday) and June 16 (Saturday) during two 24-hour periods - RN
[Looks like my guess is off by a factor of two - either more people live off Lawrence St., or people make more trips than I figured. It would also be interesting to know how the existing traffic is distributed throughout the day - Wm.]
- If Park St. and possibly Main St. need to be upgraded because of the additional traffic, has that cost been figured into the cost estimate?
- How much of an increase will there be in commercial vehicle traffic? Ie., concession stand deliveries, supplies, gardening and maintenance trucks?
- Cars will be entering and exiting the golf facility from Lawrence Street. In one direction, towards Park Street, the road is about two blocks long and is very narrow as it crosses Bush Pond and its narrow bridge. People walk on this road and fish from the bridge. It is essentially impossible for two cars to pass in the area of a pedestrian. In the other direction from the facility Lawrence Street (becomes Mill Street in Franklin) is a narrow, winding, hilly, tree-lined road abutting dozens of driveways for about 1/2 mile. Are there plans to widen Lawrence Street to accommodate the increased traffic? Are there plans to provide sidewalks for pedestrians? - RN
The course will be abutting a river and a considerable stretch of wetlands.
- Runoff from the course could carry herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer into the wetlands, upsetting the ecological balance. How will this be prevented?
- The water taken for irrigation in dry years may drain the wetlands. Who will get priority for the water, and how will the other get by?
- A portion of the course is slated to lie in protected wetlands. How will this be addressed?
- The extensive loss of habitat involved in clearing the land for grass means a lot of displaced wildlife that will be turning up on the roads and in back yards. How are the safety and animal welfare issues being addressed? - HNP
- It is said that the town was planning on locating a water well in this area. How will the course irrigation affect the yield of this proposed well?
- Where will the irrigation wells be located, and how will the water drawn for watering the course affect the migration of the chemicals that have seeped into the groundwater?
- How much water will be used per day/week/month to maintain the greens? Will the course have to abide by water bans like residents?
A: 100,000 gallons per day, 25 million gallons per season - VR
- Many/most of the abutting houses are on well water, and are not hooked to town water. If the course irrigation runs their wells dry, how will their water needs be met, and at whose cost? (And what about the annual water bills? Or should their share of the cost be twice the rest of ours?)
- Where will the parking lot be located, and will it be an eyesore to neighbors and passers-by?
A: The Golf Committee has not finalized the layout yet, but is willing to work with concerned residents to find a suitable spot - VR
Questions concerning the proposed Norfolk Municipal Golf Course
CE's questions, attached with permission, 9/2/2001
Market Demand: In the face of increasing evidence that the industry may have overbuilt, how reasonable is our assumption of 40,000 rounds at proposed average fees?
- Has any estimate of demand been prepared based on available demographics or other data? If only 15% of rounds will be played by Norfolk residents (per Golf Study Committee), how large an area might we need to draw from?
- Do we have a complete inventory of existing courses in the area with fees, rounds played and similar data? (Local phone directories list 18 public courses in the area.)
- Have we identified all proposed and planned courses in the area? (TPC in Norton, proposed courses in Milford, Walpole, etc. : 28 under construction, 32 in planning in MA per MA Golf Assn) Are we comfortable with the impact of these courses on proposed greens fees, etc?
- Do we understand the implications of not having a clubhouse or other facilities (tennis, pool, restaurant, club house)? Does our plan assume any revenues from corporate outings?
- Why do we think our ramp up to 40,000 will be faster than that of similar clubs?
- Are we comfortable that residents won't demand lower fees for juniors and seniors?
Environmental Liabilities: Have we identified potential liabilities associated known contamination and proposed use of the property?
Water Resources: Have we explored the adequacy of water resources to support a golf course? (estimated at 20-25 million gallons/year)
- What level of diligence will the Town do to assure we will not be assuming liability for further remediation of the property under Superfund legislation?
- What is the likelihood (due to changes in legislation or ownership) that the Town may be required to remediate the 31 acres where contamination has been capped but not lined? What would be the cost?
- Has ground water contamination (as reported to the Bd. of Health) been successfully addressed? If not, how much will this cost? Who will bear this cost? Is it included in the budget? Will it be a liability for the abutters or the Town operating budget?
- What are the risks associated with extensive earth moving given known contamination of the property?
- What are the risks to wildlife & water supplies associated with the various pesticides, herbicides and fungicides commonly used by golf courses?
Design Issues: Does property contain sufficient available yardage for at least a 6,200 yard course? (current plans are 6,500 yds.)
- What are the implications of information provided at Town Meeting: the property rests on 3 aquifers: one feeding the property & abutters, one supplying the Town of Franklin and one serving the prison? The abutters, most of whom are on wells, are already experiencing problems with their water supply. What is the cost of supplying these residents with Town water?
- Given existing ground water contamination, is the Golf Committee's proposal that we use the river to irrigate the course feasible?
- Alternatively, has the cost of drilling wells and holding ponds been included in the proposal?
Financial Analysis: Do we have any detail on the plan as presented? What will be the process for revising and reviewing these figures so we can be comfortable that the course will indeed bring revenues to the Town?
- The course, as presented to date, does not comply with wetlands restrictions.
- Three holes rest on property whose owners are listed as unknown. One of these owners has apparently been identified. Can a viable course be built without these properties?
- Are existing buildings adequate to support cart rental and merchandise sales (30-40% of greens fees) implied in the plan? Are facilities adequate for maintenance & other equipment?
- Do we have suitable space to build a club house in the future? What would this cost? Have these figures been incorporated in the plan?
Infrastructure Requirements: Have we identified the related costs to the Town associated with this project?
- Do we have any details on land purchase prices including permitting and other related costs (design, consultants, etc.)?
- Do we have any details on the construction budget? How does our budget compare to other similar projects? (Glen Ellen just spent $3MM upgrading their facilities) Have we tried to ascertain costs to demolish or improve the existing buildings? How much is planned for equipment and inventory purchases given revenue reliance on these items?
- How do proposed operating margins compare to statistics gathered by the National Golf Foundation?
- Do we have any details on the expense assumptions in the plan? Why is the inflation rate lower for expenses than revenues? How much of these expenses are variable vs. fixed? What is the true break-even for the operation?
- Have we prepared a plan which accurately represents the reserve and interest income associated with the operation? (Proposal as presented inflates contingency reserve and income given proposed debt structure and applicable legislation (arbitrage)?
- Have we done any contingency analysis, e.g. cost overruns or delays, slower build up to 40,000 rounds? Do we understand how municipal golf courses perform in poor seasons and economic downturns? Do we understand how lower fees for seniors and juniors would impact the plan?
- Have we prepared a realistic analysis of actual maintenance and capital improvement expenses?
- Do we understand the impact of this debt on the Town's debt capacity and other imminent projects?
- Have we calculated the value of the course at various points of operation so we understand our fallback situation? (Prices are currently declining and range from 7-10 x NOI)
- Will Lawrence St or its bridge need to be widened or improved?
- Will abutters need Town water? (See above) Are there costs to acquire the water usage rights?
- Will sidewalks be required?
- Are costs of additional services required of Town Depts. (accounting, insurance, snow & ice, etc) included in the plan?
Process Issues: Do we have a project plan, including identified go/no go decision points for BOS as promised at Town Meeting?
- Have we identified all permitting authorities, their submission requirements, review and approval time frames?
- Do we know what resources will be required to complete the following:
- feasibility analysis
- environmental due diligence
- zoning & other permitting
- construction management
- financial review
- accounting systems
- Have the BOS agreed upon their decision points relative to permitting, expenditures, liabilities, revised financials, etc.?
- Do we have a communication plan to keep residents informed of progress/status? Do we have resources committed to executing it?
- Have we verified that the process to funnel profits to the Town as revenue as promised?
- Have we thought about how we can align the management company's interest with ours without jeopardizing the tax exempt status of the bond?
- Does the BOS know how they will respond to operating shortfalls? Are there dollar limits to our funding? When would the Board consider sale of the operation?
- Who will manage this project on a full time basis on behalf of the BOS?
- What is the role of the Golf Study Committee during the development, construction and operation phases of this project? Do they completely understand and accept this role?
- Are we felling a forest and razing the land in order to preserve open space?
- Have we considered alternate uses for the property? Conservation land along with small "values" course?
- Why aren't we following the precedent of other towns in working with a partner to develop and operate the course?
From the Notes
10/8 2:37am Will this course be developed in accordance with "The Environmental Principles for Golf Courses in the United States," developed by a consortium of golf and environmental organizations? The Palm Beach Post reported on June 10, 2001, that 13 golf courses in Palm Beach County exceeded their water use permits by a total of more than 1 billion gallons -- enough water for 18,000 Florida residents for a year - and were not penalized. What assurances do the people of Norfolk have that the proposed course will not use more water than allowed? If the golf course causes water shortages for the people who live in the area, what recourse will these people have? - KT