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Crowd expected for Oak Hills master plan hearing

Corrections: The OHPA public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday. Also, Lynne Coll’s last name was incorrect in the original post. NoN apologizes for the errors.

NORWALK, Conn. – The draft Oak Hills Park master plan will be the topic of a public hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday in the largest venue available to Norwalk government.

Norwalk Oak Hills 112113 020-001
An artist’s rendering of the proposed Oak Hills Park driving range.

The plan specifies a $4.5 million cost for improvements to the park, including the construction of a driving range.

“My guess is, there is not much support for the financials as laid out in the ‘master plan,’” Common Council Finance Committee Chairman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) said in a Sunday email.

About 200 people attended a March public information session on the drafted plan, which at that point, did not include financial information.

It will be possible to submit written comments after the hearing. Norwalker Lynn Coll was one person who asked OHPA members to give people more time to consider the lengthy master plan, as, “The amount of time is insufficient to get a full understanding of the proposal, most importantly the change from a driving range from one totally funded by Total Driving Range Solutions to one funded by the city of Norwalk.”

OHPA members said that would be fine, but did not specify when they would stop accepting written comments. That would be a week or two before their next regularly scheduled meeting, which is June 19.

Coll also asked that people be stopped from heckling those who choose to speak, which she said happened in March. She asked that speakers be given a microphone as she couldn’t hear them then.

Her request for a microphone got a positive response as Thursday’s hearing will be in Concert Hall, where use of the sound system is standard procedure.

Mount defended the master plan’s “financials” at last week’s meeting.

Oak Hills currently takes in $1.5 million a year, he said, and has paid back $200,000 of its debt to Norwalk listed at more than $2.5 million as of June 14. It has been funding a reserve account at a rate of $40,000 per year, as a contingency fund required by the city, he said. Projections are for a total of 50,000 visitors to the park this year, with 30 golf tournaments, 40,000 rounds of golf and “numerous rounds of tennis.” There were 20 events in March at the Oak Hills Restaurant on the Green, he said.

We are servicing a lot of people at Oak Hills. Before the debt payments, the park will generate significant cash to cover its obligations, even at the 34,000-round level of golf,” Mount said.

This is at no cost to Norwalk taxpayers, as the golfers pay for the park, he said. The authority is “only subsidized with low-interest loans,” he said.

The Authority asked for and received in 2012 an 11-year extension to repay its current debt to the city. The current debt is due to be paid off in 2037.

As for the $4.5 million expected cost to implement the master plan, Mount said, “Seems odd we would have to borrow from the city whose land we are improving, but that is how it was set up.”

Comments

8 responses to “Crowd expected for Oak Hills master plan hearing”

  1. Lynne Coll

    For the record, my name is Lynne Coll, not Lynn Paulk. Otherwise, the description of my comments is correct.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Lynne Coll

      This has been fixed. We apologize.

  2. Bruce Kimmel

    In the story, I was specifically referring to the annual debt service which, according to my reading of the plan, would jump from roughly $160,000 a year to more than $500,000 a year. I am not at all sure the plan would generate sufficient revenue to meet that burden on a yearly basis. As we know, lots of things can happen to a golf course, even a well-run, money making course.

  3. EveT

    Isn’t the public hearing on Thursday, May 22?

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ EveT

      Yes, it is. Story is being corrected. Thank you.

  4. Clyde Mount OHPA Member

    Not to disappoint everyone, it was the only room available in City Hall when we were asked to move the meeting date to accommodate the Mayor and Common Council. Originally we had the meeting set for the Community Room on the 13th, but did not realize that the council meeting was that night. So it was requested we move the date. The community room was booked solid for the rest of May when the request came in.

  5. Yvonne Lopaur

    Mr. Mount statement that it “Seems odd we would have to borrow from the city whose land we are improving, but that is how it was set up” should disqualify him from serving on the OHPA. Pouring chemicals into the soil, cutting down trees, and blasting rocks, in order to construct maintain and “improve” a golf course is not improving the land. If I want to operate a daily use golf course I’d have to purchase the land and pay taxes on it. The OHPA did not purchase the land for its golf course and does not pay taxes on it. Hence it starts off with a huge subsidy. On top of that it has already received more than 2 million dollars in low interest tax subsidized loans to “improve” the land by constructing cart paths on it, a restaurant, etc. Constructing a large commercial driving range would not be improving the land. And money used to improve the golf course is not money used to improve the land. Essentially what Mr. Mount is suggesting with his statement is that taxpayers should be grateful the OHPA is giving them the opportunity to subsidize golfers. The statement leaves me shaking my head.
    What is odd is the world the chairman of the Authority seems to be living in. It is a give me this and give me that and thank me for letting you do so world.

  6. TomReynolds

    Yvonne Lopaur (Mrs. Cantor) – I just have to laugh at your view of the world.
    You people can take any statement and turn it into something entirely different.

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