NORWALK, Conn. – The proposed Oak Hills Park master plan could be phased in over several years, like the Veteran’s Park master plan, Oak Hills Park Authority Chairman Clyde Mount said Sunday.
The estimated $4.45 million cost of the master plan includes a driving range. Mount said he couldn’t yet provide details but he understood that Total Driving Range Solutions (TDRS), the selected bidder, could finance building just the range – no other improvements to the park – but that’s now considered “Plan B.”
This is in spite of a developer-financed driving range being outlined as Plan A under former OHPA Chairman Bob Virgulak when this process began more than a year and a half ago.
“The city will invest no money and will probably give a 10-year lease to the company that builds it. Then it will belong to the city,” Virgulak said in a December 2012 meeting.
He repeated the thought. “Oak Hills is not going to have to pay any money on this. We will make money on this,” he said. “…We expect we’re going to make a lot of money, however, you never know how things turn out, expectations don’t always come out exactly the way they should be. We can only go by what some of the surrounding driving ranges made.”
Virgulak went on to challenge those who were turning out to protest the idea by saying that he pays a lot of real estate taxes, and he didn’t want his taxes to go up either. There would be a public hearing, he said.
“We’re all in this together, that’s the way we want everybody to feel,” he said. “It’s a lot different this time than it was 11-12 years ago, I wish some people would understand that. It’s not the same thing, it’s not the same place. It’s not the cost. That’s the way it is. Now, we expect it to be a big money maker for the city, not in the beginning and then eventually it’s going to be ours, 100 percent. We’re not going to be giving a 20-30 year lease with this thing. We’re going to probably give a 10-year deal on it to an operator. But again, we haven’t defined the exact terms yet of how we’re going to do this.”
The need for a long term lease is the reason Plan A is now Plan B, according to Mount.
Asked in an email, “Without doing the entire makeover, just the driving range, does TDRS finance that itself? Or do you still need to go to the city?” Mount replied by email:
“It is my understanding that TDRS could do just the range location. It will require an extended lease that we felt would be hard for the City to stomach. Some of the items that we propose in the master plan to better the facility/Range would not have been included as we built a better facility. I am not certain of the value of just that piece as it changed with all of our enhancements. I will try and get that for you within the next few days. So the short answer is I believe so/yes, the longer answer is we are looking at that now as plan b so we can revise or phase the master plan/financial needs. Other Master Plans are phased in like the Vet’s park 13 million dollar plus, over ten year makeover that was approved for that park.”
Authority members are thinking it would be best to fix the entire thing at once, he said.
“That could be too aggressive for the environment today, but we really feel the plan is a good one, and is what we will continue to push, with one major change…how we go about paying for it.”
He said he was disappointed that people were looking at the master plan’s price tag before reviewing what he called a “good” plan, one “that really takes the park and the facilities well into the future.”