Oak Hills master plan, with request for $4.5 million loan, moves ahead

NORWALK, Conn. – The Oak Hills Park master plan is advancing, over the protests of one Oak Hills Park Authority (OHPA) member and, she says, a majority of the people who spoke at the public hearing.

Elsa Peterson was the sole OHPA member to vote against the plan at Thursday’s meeting, which included “fireworks,” according to Friends of Oak Hills Park member Diane Cece.

The plan includes a request for up to $4.45 million loan from the city, at 4.5 percent interest. This is in addition to the more than $2.5 million OHPA owes Norwalk as of June 1, according to the plan.

OHPA Chairman Clyde Mount confirmed via email that the plan had advanced. He did not answer an email asking for further details, nor did Oak Hills Driving Range Ad Hoc Committee Chairman Ernie Desrochers.

The fireworks, Cece said, were between her and OHPA.

“Completely out of nowhere, Ernie and Clyde put the ‘final’ master plan up for a vote to advance it to P&Z. I rose to clarify if they intended to approve it last night in the absence of a public hearing on the final version, or even having the final version available to the public,” she wrote in an email. “They still refuse to believe that there is an accepted protocol for park master plans, did not acknowledge that (Recreation and Parks Department Director) Mike Mocciae offered to assist them, and didn’t see any issue with the plan being prepared by the driving range project bidder. …”

Peterson said she voted no because, as an editor, she thinks it could benefit from more revision, and she felt that the majority of the people who spoke on the topic were either against the master plan or ambivalent.

“Before we voted I told my fellow authority members that I had tallied the comments that were given at the public information session on March 4th and at the public hearing on the 22nd, as well as the one written public comment that was sent in,” she said. “I tallied them in three columns: those that said we should go ahead with the plan as is, and they were in favor of the master plan, they were in favor of the driving range, they were in favor of going ahead; those who were opposed to the driving range and/or were opposed to our going ahead with the master plan as it is; and those who expressed ambivalence or some other type of comment. If anyone had spoken more than once at those events I only counted that person once, so if you attended both you didn’t get two votes. I came out with nine in favor, 15 opposed and nine ambivalent.”

While page 56 of the master plan says the proposed new debt is $4.45 million, or $247,222 per hole, page 72  says the proposed new debt is $4.32 million:

• Golf school and related improvements (the driving range) $2.51 million, to be repaid in 25 years

• Course and park improvements $902,500, to be repaid over 15 years

• Pro shop and administrative improvements $225,000, to be repaid over 15 years

• Start up and general conditions, $685,674, to be repaid over 10 years

 The debt structure would be interest-only for the first year.



4 responses to “Oak Hills master plan, with request for $4.5 million loan, moves ahead”

  1. Suzanne

    This kind of fiddling around really wastes people time.
    The OHPA should go through the proper process as must all park Master Plans in Norwalk. There is a reason for this vetting process, one of which would be the lack of an interested, financially connected party preparing the plan for their own positive outcome.
    Make no mistake, OHPA: TDRS’ goal is profit and that is right. They are in business to make money. Vetting is to determine whether that is in the best interest of Norwalk. When you skip that process, profit-making is the sole impetus without, ultimately, any altruistic notions by TDRS of what is best for the Town.
    I am sure you worked very hard on this project, all two of you, but it is not valid. I hope this Master Plan is required to go back to the drawing board for evaluation and vetting as is required of every Norwalk park plan.
    It may be messier, but, yes, public comment is required too and you have conveniently skipped that process as well. The OHPA works WITHIN town government not in spite of it. To think any thing else and to act any way else is, unfortunately, demonstrating a hubris not useful to your cause.

  2. Paul Cantor

    Oak Hills Park should be managed by the Recreation and Parks Department. The Oak Hills Park Authority, a rogue elephant bent on promoting the interests of a minority of golfers at the expense of everyone else, should never have been set up. Now it has produced a document that calls for millions of dollars of additional loans to upgrade the 18-hole golf course and build a driving range. And this despite the fact that it has had to restructure millions of dollars in past loans that are still outstanding. What gives the Authority such chutzpah? It is the symbiotic relationship it has developed with politicians and city officials who see golfers as a constituency that can boost their chances of remaining in office. Only when more taxpayers become aware of the situation and let members of the Common Council know they will hold them accountable for it can we expect Oak Hills Park to be turned over to the Recreation and Parks Department so it can be managed in the interests of all taxpayers instead of a relatively well off minority with political connections and a you grease my palm and I’ll grease your palm mentality.

  3. EveT

    Did the other members of the authority explain why they voted “yes” in opposition to the majority of public opinion? Do they know something the public doesn’t know?

  4. piberman

    Curious that the BOE gets mostly good reviews for planning to outsource custodians making upwards of 80k with potential savings to the City well into the 6 figures annually while the Oak Hills folks are asking for another 4.5 million loan from the City on top of the 2.5 million outstanding without presenting any detailed financial plan on the project. Here we have an elected Board (BOE) earning high praise for careful use of City funds together with an appointed board (Oak Hills) asking for millions without even presenting a detailed plan. Yet neither the Council nor the Mayor suggest that Oak Hills is negligent in not presenting a financial plan for objective inspection. And folks wonder why citizens are loosing respect for their local governance. The real question is why the Oak Hills Authority doesn’t consider it necessary to provide a detailed financial plan for their project. Too messy ?

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