Updated, 2:42 p.m., proposed plan attached
NORWALK, Conn. – The Oak Hills Park Authority is asking Norwalk for $4.45 million to build a “golf learning center,” improve the existing restaurant building and alter the golf course.
The plans are outlined in the proposed master plan, which will be the topic of a May 13 public hearing.
The plan is a collaboration of OHPA members Ernie Desrochers and Clyde Mount and representatives of Total Driving Range Solutions (TDRS), the winning bidder in the competitive process that resulted from a request for proposals (RFP) to build a driving range on the course.
TDRS is described in the master plan as “the vendor chosen by OHPA to design and develop the Oak Hills Golf Learning Center,” although the RFP offered the opportunity to build a driving range on the course, at operator expense.
Page 56 of the proposed master plan says that the total cost to the city to implement the plan would be $4.45 million. That is described as $247,222 per hole.
On page 72: “The proposed new debt would allow for the construction of the new range and teaching facility and make course and restaurant modifications.”
That page outlines the existing city debt, due to Oak Hills Park improvements, as more than $2.5 million as of June 14.
The proposed new debt to the city would be $2.5 million for the golf school and related improvements, $902,500 for course and park improvements, $225,000 for pro shop and administration improvements and $685,675 for start-up and general conditions. The expected rate of interest would be 4.5 percent.
“The debt structure would assume interest only for the debt during the first year to account for the ongoing renovation,” it says on page 72. Interest only is $151,200. Otherwise, payments are expected to be $356,262.
Mayor Harry Rilling said in a late Thursday email that he had not seen the master plan. No one had approached him with the request for funding, he said.
OHPA Chairman Clyde Mount provided the document to NancyOnNorwalk Thursday afternoon. Neither he nor Ad Hoc Driving Range Committee Ernie Desrochers replied to Thursday evening attempts to contact them. Common Council Finance Committee Chairman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) also did not respond to a Thursday night email.
Diane Cece, a member of the Friends of Oak Hills Park, spoke to Common Council Planning Committee members Thursday evening and said she had heard the authority wants millions of dollars to enact their plan. Council members did not respond.
Cece decried the process by which the plan had been derived. The plan has not been released publicly and the hearing is less than two weeks away, she said.
“There’s been no public input except in a single public forum that was the worst facilitated public information forum that I have ever attended in my life,” she said. “There’s not going to be the opportunity for public input despite the fact that every other master plan in this city has had multiple public input sessions with the people who are developing the plan. You should know that the person who helped develop the plan did not come in via a request for qualifications or a request for proposals. That that person came in as – already the vendor of choice for the driving range. You should also know that this will be the first master plan for a public park that didn’t include an advisory committee made up of the stakeholders … From our smallest parks to our largest parks, this has been the protocol,, but because it is not an ordinance and because it’s not a regulation, the Oak Hills Park Authority feels that they only want to adhere to the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law.”
It’s about much more than a driving range, which had formerly been advertised as something that would be funded by the developer, she said.
“If you allow this to come before you in this manner and it is accepted in this manner then this opens a slippery slope for then on how we conduct all public input in the city,” she said. “I don’t think we should set that example. I don’t think that this committee should accept something that comes to you from a route that is not transparent and clearly blocks out the public.”