Mayor should be consistent, speak out against driving range

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To the Editor:

Editor’s note: This letter to Mayor Harry Rilling was submitted by Paul Cantor as a letter to the editor.

Dear Mayor Rilling:

I am grateful to you for helping to broker the settlement with the Al Madany Islamic center that prevented a mosque from being built on Fillow Street. The mosque would have generated traffic and undermined the residential quality of the AAA zoned residential neighborhood through which Fillow Street runs.

Norwalk, of course, has a vested interest in preserving its residential neighborhoods and you recognized that by supporting the effort to find a more suitable location for the mosque. That is the reason your silence regarding the large 36-bay commercial driving range the OHPA is planning to build in Oak Hills Park is so difficult to understand.

The traffic that will be generated by the driving range if it is constructed will be of an order of magnitude greater than the traffic that would have been generated by the mosque. And the OHPA intends to develop a marketing plan to see that once the driving range is constructed it generates that traffic throughout the day every day of the year.

Furthermore, the entrance to the driving range on Charles Marshall Drive is less than half a mile from Kendall and Fox Run elementary schools and Ponus Middle school and only a few feet from where a 17-year-old women was killed in an automobile accident in 2008. And people in cars heading to the driving range won’t be people from Norwalk on their way to worship with their neighbors. Instead they will be people preparing to hit a couple of buckets of balls and then perhaps have a couple of drinks before heading home to New Canaan or Wilton or Westport. So with respect to the driving range, traffic is even more of an issue than it was with the mosque.  But it is not the only issue.

Indeed, the fundamental issue has to do with good governance. And a government that caters to special interest groups at the expense of all its citizens is a dysfunctional government.

Yes, there are many golfers in our city. And all those that have been appointed to the Oak Hills Park Authority are golfers who represent them. Hence, it is not surprising that the Authority has come up with a sales pitch for a large driving range with the help of the firm that hopes to construct it.  But it is shocking that by masquerading as a “master plan” the sales pitch has managed to be taken seriously by government officials despite the fact that many of them, like you, are also golfers.

So I appeal to you as the Mayor of all Norwalk residents to stand up for good governance and voice your opposition to constructing a large commercial driving range in Oak Hills Park. The golf course has existed for more than 40 years without a driving range. Yet now the OHPA maintains it needs a large commercial driving range to solve its financial problems. But it is as likely the driving range will aggravate the OHPA’s financial problems as help to solve them.

And in the meantime it will add to traffic on Fillow Street that will be many times greater and a good deal more dangerous than the traffic that would have been associated with the mosque.


Paul Cantor


12 responses to “Mayor should be consistent, speak out against driving range”

  1. DeerMooo

    A broken record. And another specious argument.

    Substantiate your claim that traffic from a range would be disruptive: a few more more cars does not equal some insurmountable traffic problem, and all I can see in your letter is that you’ve made a illogical leap from more cars to traffic disaster.

    Furthermore, using the mosque in a comparison makes no sense as the entire congregation of the mosque (potentially hundreds of people) could be expected to come and go at the same time (beginning and end of a service) whereas the clientele of a driving range (35 maximum concurrent users, though you’ve previously suggested they don’t have the clientele) are on no such schedule.

    Also please remind me: you have nothing against golf or golfers, right?

  2. Suzanne

    Has an accurate traffic study by the OHPA based upon their goals for driving range players been done? If not, why not?

    Everyone knows that people will wait for a spot at a driving range if it is very crowded. Saying only 36 people will be participating at any one time is not accurate if the success of the range is as claimed and projected by the OHPA.

  3. piberman

    Much as I have questions about the fanciful financial projections of the Oak Hills Range this is really the call of Common Council members, not the Mayor. So far Council members have not yet indicated they are familiar with the financial projections. The Mosque was a different and quite difficult issue where the Mayor spoke for the entire community. And appropriately so. Citizens who object to the Oak Hills project can readily advise their Council members and those at large that they will hold hem responsible next fall. Who knows, Council members might or might not listen. But they were elected to serve the public interest. Even if they give no evidence of having read the fanciful financial projections. To be sure there’s more to Oak Hills than finances. But at least Council members ought to be well versed on the real finances of the project. That’s the easy part. So lets give the Mayor a rest on this one. Not his call.

  4. cc-rider

    Does the golf course need a traffic study when they host a 144 player outing? Ten years ago when the course hosted thousands more rounds yearly was there a traffic issue compared to level of rounds now?

  5. DeerMooo

    @cc-rider has nailed it: traffic is yet another red herring. No facts, no thought, just Paul Cantor and his weird anti-golf obsession. I guess he thinks that if he drones on at every opportunity, someone will cave just to shut him up.

  6. Suzanne

    If the golf course has a 144 player outing, the driving range traffic would understandably be added to that. Right now, the play is largely episodic with no consistent crowds from rounds. The driving range plans, however, anticipate a constant number of participants at a higher level.

    And, why would the OHPA be afraid of a traffic study if they believe there would be no problems? Money for the study? This would not seem to be an issue: great plans require funding and the OHPA is planning on asking the citizens of Norwalk for a lot. Complete data, with this ask, is the least the OHPA could do.

  7. DeerMooo

    “And, why would the OHPA be afraid of a traffic study”

    Yet another red herring: substantiate the claim that OHPA is “afraid” of a traffic study?

    There is no application to build anything so why would there already be a traffic study? The master plan is (like all master plans) an aspirational document, not a building application.

    Meanwhile, if you were to assume that every bay is full every hour of every day, that each car contains only one range patron, that each patron buys only one bucket of balls and then leaves, and that there is no overlap of range patrons with any other use of the park (none of these things being anywhere close to reasonable assumptions or OHPA most-ambitious projections), the number of cars is still a drop in the bucket relative to traffic volume on Fillow as measured in the any of the mosque traffic studies.

    The only people who should be afraid of a traffic study are those who contend that traffic will be a deal-killer.

    Next red herring, please…

  8. We are talking about one additional car every 25 seconds. (36 bays x 2 golfers a hour x 2 coming and going). That’s assuming the driving range patron won’t stay and play a round of golf. Traffic is just a bogus issue.

  9. Suzanne

    RWetzel, Without real data from the OHPA Master Plan in terms of active play on the range and how much traffic is required to turn the expected profit, any speculations as to how much traffic will be created by the new facility “is just a bogus issue” and certainly not based on real information. Throwing around numbers based upon even educated guesses does not confirmed data from a traffic study make.

  10. Suzanne,
    I guess the ONLY way to really know how much the traffic will increase is to count cars AFTER the Driving range is put it. Beyond that, it is anyone’s best guess. My guess was based on full capacity.

  11. Casey Smith

    Furthermore, the entrance to the driving range on Charles Marshall Drive is less than half a mile from Kendall and Fox Run elementary schools and Ponus Middle school

    Okay, Mr. Cantor….you’re concerned about Fox Run and Kendall? Fair enough. Are you also concerned about the students at Jefferson that have an interstate entrance and exit ramp less the a quarter of a mile from their school?

    And yes, Cassie Geary did die near the golf course. But if you check out the Click It For Cassie website, you’ll find this statement from her family…”The investigating officers informed us that if Cassie had been wearing her seatbelt, she would have walked away from the accident with only a bump on her head.” Tragic but true.

    The volume of traffic that would be generated by a driving range and the amount generated by a mosque would be drastically different. However, in answer to Suzanne’s question about whether or not a traffic study has been done for this particular project — I believe the answer is no. The traffic counts won’t be done until the Authority start to assemble their documents for a P&Z application, which is some time down the road. The Master Plan does not give the Authority automatic permission to construct the driving range.

  12. Diane Keefe

    The Mayor and the Coucnil should speak out against the driving range because it’s wrong to spend taxpayers’ money on subsidizing a small group’s multi million dollar golf playground at the expense of most Norwalk residents who can neither afford the time nor the money to patronize the facilities.
    Time to let OHPA stand on its own financially. Let’s have a master plan that finds ways to cut back on operating expenses or increase use of the existing course without $2.5 million in state bonding that Norwalkers will be liable to pay back for years to come (eg by cutting back on the more than$100,000 spent on lawn chemicals in 2012/13 ) maybe?

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