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Two beautiful fall days and three beautiful driving ranges

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To the editor:

It was a beautiful fall Saturday in September, so I decided to bike from my house across the street from Oak Hills Park to the Silver Spring Golf course in New York. I wanted to see how many golfers were using its driving range. My thought was that might give me a handle on whether the multi-million dollar driving range the Oak Hills Park Authority wants to construct in Oak Hills would be likely to make money.

Here is the picture:

 

range1

 

Oh well, I thought, New York is not Connecticut. So today, starting out from Oak Hills Park, I rode to the Longshore Golf Course in Westport to check out their driving range. And lo and behold it was a bit busier…

 

Westport range

 

… but not with paying customers. However, on the way back home, I stopped by the Shorehaven Golf Club in Norwalk and discovered…

 

Shorehaven

 

… two golfers making good use of its driving range.

Of course, none of the driving ranges pictured above are the size of Stamford’s Sterling Farms driving range. And it is the Sterling Farms driving range that serves as the Oak Hills Authority’s model for what a real driving range should look like.

So maybe, just maybe, if the Authority can convince Norwalk’s Common Council to loan it $4 million of taxpayers’ money to build a double-decker state-of-the art, super-duper, 36-bay driving range with large, ugly nets in Oak Hills Park, half of those Stamford businessmen who now pay to hit balls at Sterling Farms and the two fellows above will pay to hit a bucket of balls in Oak Hills Park.

Then, if Canada Geese win the lottery and learn to play golf, maybe, just maybe, the proposed super-duper driving range in Oak Hills Park would stand a chance of helping the Authority to solve its financial problems.

But note: The geese would probably want the Authority to take down the nets.

Paul Cantor

Norwalk

Comments

9 responses to “Two beautiful fall days and three beautiful driving ranges”

  1. cc-rider

    Silver Spring and Shorehaven are a exclusive private country clubs. The Longshore range is a awful piece of property. It is basically irons only because of the lack of room.

    Would bringing pictures of Greens Farms Academy or the Brunswick School to a Norwalk BOE meeting about Brian McMahon High School have any relevance?

  2. TReynolds

    Dude! Do you have a job? Most people are at work in the middle of the day and cannot go to a driving range . . . or the grocery store . . . or the barber . . . or the park . . . or take a bike ride . . or go pigeon hunting . . . or even take a hike. So, take a hike. You bolster your argument once again in falsehoods. Are you trying to scare the beloved taxpayers you claim to be protecting with a $4 million price tag? The range will not cost that much.
    It is clear that you have some chip on your shoulder against the golf course at Oak Hills Park. The park exists solely to house a golf course. That is why the land was obtained in the first place. That’s a fact you can look up, not make up. You have stated in the past that you just don’t want a golf course in your back (front) yard. One against the world (or maybe you have as much as 11 disciples who support your view – I’ve never counted). I just wish you would turn your energies to something that you CAN change.

  3. Paul Cantor

    @cc-rider

    The issue is what is the likelihood that a driving range in Oak Hills Park will even make enough money to pay off the multi-million dollar cost of constructing it?

    Oak Hills Park also “lacks room” – i.e. has an area too limited to conveniently accommodate a large 36-bay double-decker commercial driving range. Here is how The Hour put it after the idea to construct a large commercial driving range in Oak Hills Park came up once before and then was scrapped:

    SCRAPPING PLAN AT OAK HILLS PARK PROPER DECISION

    “The decision of the Oak Hills Authority to drop plans for a driving range in Norwalk’s Oak Hills Park, is a wise one. The original plan for a two-deck driving range with 40 stalls was a grandiose one, and went far beyond the needs of local golfers.

    Even the scaled-down version was controversial, and it is well that the authority put the whole matter on the shelf for the time being. We say this, not because there was such an outcry from neighbors, although that was a consideration, but because there was opposition from others in town, including a fair number of golfers.

    The location of the golf course off the beaten path, and the narrow road network around it all argued against it. Add to that the need for additional parking space and the plan made no sense at all.”
    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1916&dat=19991011&id=SglJAAAAIBAJ&sjid=bgUNAAAAIBAJ&pg=2476,1825066

    And in November 2013 Nancy on Norwalk reported that at a meeting of the Oak Hills Park Authority five golfers spoke “to protest the driving range plan, which was announced in August and has been in the process of negotiation. Norwalker John Sharkey said the range would be a disruption and a distraction, that the site selected was bad because the sun blinds golfers in the afternoon. Jim Deering was present only in writing, as Sharkey and another man read a letter he had written. Driving ranges are usually separate from golf courses and 95 percent of the golfers are against the plan, the letter said. The range would be too short behind the sixth green, golfers would be hit by flying golf balls and Norwalk will become the laughing stock of the golfing community, he wrote.” https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2013/11/oak-hills-driving-range-plans-unveiled-to-public/

    Now, after failing to obtain private sector funding for the driving range because no private sector lender could be convinced it would earn enough to pay back the cost of constructing it, the OHPA’s has paid the National Golf Foundation to make the case that it will make money. And once it has what it is euphemistically terming the National Golf Foundation’s “study” in hand it plans to use it to bolster its appeal to the Common Council for millions of taxpayer dollars in the form of a low interest loan to construct the driving range.

    But I have to say, cc-rider, you got one thing right: Silver Spring and Shorehaven are country clubs. Hence, the golfers on their fairways unlike the golfers in Oak Hills Park aren’t playing with taxpayers’ money.

  4. Jim Perkins

    I’m still laughing – THERE’S NOBODY THERE!

    Great pics!, I bet if you go to the Sterling Range on a weekday this time of the year the pic would be similar.

    GOLFERS OF OAK HILS YOU WANT A RANGE THEN YOU PAY FOR IT.

  5. Wineshine

    So I’m confused. Is the opposition to this project about the incredible noise and traffic that it will create, or that no one will use it?

  6. Paul Cantor

    @TReynolds

    Thank you for pointing out “most people are at work in the middle of the day and cannot go to a driving range.”

    That, of course, is a primary reason the driving range in a residential area far from where people work is unlikely to be a money winner.

    You write: “the park exists solely to house a golf course. That is why the land was obtained in the first place. That’s a fact you can look up, not make up.” But the Oak Hill Park Dedication Agreement signed by Mayor Frank Zullo on August 24, 1967 reads, the city: “intends to use said land for recreational and conservation purposes as defined in Section 7-131c of the Connecticut General Statutes, Revision of 1958, Revised to 1966; and agrees with the State of Connecticut, that said land shall not be conveyed to any use other than recreational or conservation purposes…”

    You write: “it is clear that you have some chip on your shoulder against the Golf course at Oak Hills Park” and you ask “Dude! Do you have a job?”

    Even though I don’t think nearly all of the land in a public park should be allocated to an 18-hole golf course, I would not raise my voice against it if user fees could cover the cost of the golf course That is the reason you did not hear a peep out of me when Vinny Grillo was in charge of the course and is was run smoothly and well. So clearly your “chip on the shoulder” remark is wrong. Nevertheless I understand how your passion for the game may leads you to make ad hominem attacks on those who don’t think they should be called upon to subsidize it. But unfortunately from your standpoint those attacks don’t strengthen your case.

    Now having said that I am off for another bike ride before I have to get back in a couple of hours to teach a class in which we shall be discussing the difference between pure public goods that are provided by the government and other types of goods such as golf courses that are provided by the private sector.

    @ Wineshine.

    You ask:

    Is the opposition to this project about the incredible noise and traffic that it will create, or that no one will use it?

    Yes, I am opposed to construction of the driving range because of the negative impact it will have on the residential quality of the West Norwalk neighborhood in which I live due to the traffic and noise that would be associated with it and because it will further limit access to Oak Hills Park by those who don’t play golf, and because it will be an unsightly and environmentally damaging addition to the park. So yes, my opposition to the driving range has to do with the traffic and noise that will be associated with it.

    And no, my opposition to the driving range is not that no one will use it. If it is constructed people will use it. But not enough people to justify loaning the OHPA money to construct it. Hence the OHPA couldn’t get a loan from the private sector for it. Nevertheless, it has just paid the National Golf Foundation thousands of dollars to help it make the case that the driving range will help it solve its financial problems. If the Common Council agrees to loan the Authority that money it will be making a big mistake in my view. The money will be used to construct a driving range that will serve the interest of a minority of taxpayers at the expense of the majority. And the loan is unlikely to ever be paid back in full.

    Hope that helps to clear things up for you.

  7. cc-rider

    Stop the nonsense about the private sector would not finance it already. How many times are you going to repeat this same half truth?

    The banks decided that the private sector should not be given a loan to finance building the city’s driving range. Period. There is not any more to it.

  8. Karl

    Hey Paul did u go by Sterling Farms Driving Range ? Guess not ! Why because it was probably crowded ! Paul I have an idea MOVE !

  9. Yvonne Lopaur

    @ Karl

    Mr. Cantor has lived in Norwalk for more than 30 years and doesn’t intend to move. Rather he intends to contribute to the effort to make the neighborhood and city he lives in places that best serve the interests of our community.

    Who are you? Where do you live? What is your argument for constructing a driving range in Oak Hills? Is your argument: “I want it? And I want you to pay for it?” Or is it “I want it. And it will make money. And then I want that money to be used to subsidize the golf course”?

    Your post does not reflect an understanding that in order to make your case you need to demonstrate how the benefit of a driving range will outweigh its cost from the point of view of all the taxpayers of Norwalk. Rather by screaming MOVE it demonstrates intolerance and hatred. Shame on you for that.

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