Commission eyes North Street land to expand Milford golf course

When the Board of Aldermen voted in May to spend $1.6 million to buy a parcel of land on North Street, members of the city’s golf commission backed the decision. In fact, members of the commission that oversees the city-owned Orchards Golf Course supported the decision with $161,000 from a fund fed by golf fees.

In return, the commission would like a bit of that new city land to augment the golf course.

George Amato, vice chairman of the golf commission, spoke during the aldermen’s meeting in May, pointing out that the commission supported buying the land, which is adjacent to the golf course, when it was up for sale several years ago. The city didn’t buy it then, and Amato encouraged the city to buy it now. He also pointed out the golf commission is interested in getting a piece of the property.

Dan Worroll, another member of the golf commission, confirmed recently that the commission is still hoping to get a portion of the new property to extend some of the holes at the city-owned golf course.

Mayor Ben Blake said the city expects to close the deal on the purchase of 701 North Street this month, but other than the fact that the land will be added to Milford’s collection of open space, there are no plans yet for the exact use of the property.

The nine-hole executive Orchards golf course is located on Kozlowski Road, across from Eisenhower Park. The golf course opened in 1997: The city built it with money it got when the Iroquois Pipeline was run through the city. This was formerly an apple orchard, and trees line the course.

The course is owned by the city and managed by Tournament Turf Care. A municipal enterprise, the course is maintained and operated through funds it raises. Funds that the course generated recently paid for a number of upgrades, including the construction of a new all purpose room at the clubhouse building.

Worroll said the commission wouldn’t look to add more holes to the 9-hole course if granted permission to extend the borders onto a portion of the new city land, but rather to make some of the holes longer.

He envisions lengthening several of the holes along the southern part of the course, where the Orchards abuts the property at 701 North Street.

“If you hit your ball too far it could go into the other fairway,” Worroll said as he stood near Hole 5 on a recent day. If some of the holes along the western and southern portion of the course were lengthened, that would be less likely to happen, he added.

Vickie Fabrizio, CFO for Tournament Turf Care, said she thinks customers would be happy to see some of the holes longer, and Tim Mars, who oversees maintenance of the grounds, agreed.

“I’d lengthen the course a little bit,” Mars said. “I think we’d get a different caliber of golfer.”

Carlos Smith, who plays at The Orchards about four times a week, said extending some of the holes is “a great idea.”

The options for expanding the course are limited by the location of a house on the property at 701 North Street, said Golf Commission Chairman Richard Austin. Regardless, Austin sees potential to adding to the course and would like to see that happen.

Austin, a former warden in the Borough of Woodmont never known to mince words, said,  “Yes, we’re entitled to some of the land. At least we want a chair at the table when they decide.”

The city tapped into a number of open space accounts when it voted to buy the 701 North Street parcels:

In addition to the $161,000 from the Orchard Golf Course, $430,000 will come from an open space account funded from the sale of the rear of the Downs house on North Street; $27,000 from a Mondo Pond Beaverbrook account funded through an Iroquois gas line grant.

Another $269,000 will come from an open space fund that developers pay into, and  $279,000 will come from a Beaverbrook upkeep fund.

Another $150,000 will come from a blighted property line item, which represents liens paid on blighted properties, and another $75,000 will come from a sustainability conservation fund, and $209,000 will come from the city’s undesignated fund balance.

Mayor Ben Blake and Democrats pointed out in May that only the $209,000 from the undesignated account represents actual taxpayer dollars, and they said that could be recouped if the city were to break the parcel into pieces and sell part of it.

The lot is 6.98 acres, and while Democrats say the city didn’t decide to buy the land to stop a housing development, it is true that the purchase did put an end to plans to create a 63-house community with an affordable component on the property.

The current owner is Stone Preserve LLC, of 500 Boston Post Road, Milford, of which Arnold Peck is the manager. Stone Preserve applied in August 2014 for a conventional five-lot subdivision on the seven-acre property, and then withdrew that application in October 2014.

In January 2015, Stone Preserve applied to the Inland-Wetlands Agency for a review of plans calling for a 63-house community with an affordable component under the 8-30g law, and then withdrew those plans in May 2015.

The developer bought the land for $950,000 in July 2013. The current city assessment is $1.36 million.

There is a historic house on the site, as well as “excellent” barns, which are featured on the Connecticut Barns website, according to Former City Historian Richard Platt.