Sometime soon, possibly next month, the Northampton Town Board will be faced with the decision of whether or not to rezone the Sacandaga Golf Course to allow a 10-parcel residential subdivision that’s being proposed by developer John Mulcahy.
Mulcahy has proposed purchasing the 54-acre golf course for approximately $400,000, but only if the town rezones the land to allow for the subdivision. His plan calls for six subdivisions near the 8th hole, all of which would be connected to municipal water; three subdivisions on the southern end of the property, not connected to municipal water; and one property on the lake, the one which he plans to keep for himself.
None of the subdivisons are connected to municipal sewer service. The holes affected by the plan would Nos. 3, 4 and 8.
The town planning board and town enforcement officer Matt Ginter, on Wednesday, presented the board with a report that showed that all of Mulcahy’s proposed subdivisions would need to be at least 20,000 square feet in size to allow for septic systems, if the town board allows a rezoning. Ginter and the planning board had to research the issue because rules for residential subdivision had never been established within the special protective “Golf Course District,” created by Northampton’s Comprehensive Plan in 2007.
Now the proposal is being reviewed by the town board’s golf course committee, made up of town councilmen Art Simmons and William Gritsavage. When they are done mulling the issue, they will make a recommendation to the board, and if the board ultimately decides to allow the rezoning there will need to be a State Environmental Quality Review process and probably several public hearings.
We recommend that Simmons and Gritsavage — and ultimately the rest of the town board — view this proposal from Mulcahy with extreme skepticism. For approximately $400,000, Mulcahy would undoubtedly be purchasing residential real estate worth significantly more than $400,000, not to mention getting a lakefront camp for himself and a golf course that he and his associates have said he does not want to own or operate. Mulcahy and his associate Dan Casey have indicated Mulcahy might want to keep the current golf course owner Richard “Dick” Osborne, who is in his 80s, on to operate the course while he invests some money into upgrading it with an eye toward selling it. That all sounds well and good, but there’s simply no way to guarantee he will follow through with any of those pledges.
The people of the town of Northampton thought that maintaining the 1898 vintage golf course was so important to tourism it enshrined the course in a protective zoning district. The town board should respect the Comprehensive Plan and not rezone this property.
Town board member Ivar Anderson has suggested the town pursue a state grant that could be used to purchase the golf course, which would enable the town to maintain control and create an environment where the golf course can be a successful tourist attraction. We think that’s the better approach.
The simple truth is that a purely private sector for-profit approach may simply not work for that golf course any longer, but that doesn’t mean that a public-private partnership might not succeed.
The town board should not place its faith in a development plan that is clearly aimed at making money by cutting up this vintage golf course, and has the operation of the course as a secondary concern.