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Ontario Taxpayers to decide on purchase of Ontario Golf Club for Greenspace & Recreation

by WayneTimes.com
February 20, 2021

The 18-hole Ontario Golf Club facility on Country Club Lane in Ontario opened in 1929. It is on 161.25 acres of land, which now may become public green space and recreation areas,for the Town of Ontario.

The Town is looking to purchase the property  for $1.1 million.  

During a Monday night meeting, the Ontario Town Board voted on a public referendum to purchase the land currently being used as a golf course. 

This will open up being the decision of the residents of whether the purchase happens. 

Plans would be for the Town  to use the valuable real estate as an extension of the Parks and Recreation Department. It will explore options for utilizing the existing structure, including a pool area, and plans to open up the land as greenspace for residents. 

The existing clubhouse will be used as an event center which will include a partnership between the town and local businesses and restaurants.  

It will continue to operate as an 18-hole golf course, which will create the funding for operations and maintenance. 

“As an operating golf course, I am confident the land will not be a financial burden to taxpayers as it will support itself. I strongly feel, as a steward of the town, that we cannot only be concerned about taking actions to better the town today, but to invest in the town for future generations,” said Town Supervisor Frank Robusto.  

A recurring theme during town comprehensive plans is that residents expressed the importance of having greenspace and recreational areas available to them. The Town feels that the golf course will lend itself to multiple recreational activities, including skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. 

The Town offered a quick financial breakdown:

The $1.1 million price tag is $500,000 below the proposed assessed value. With current interest rates, the town is confident it can lock in an attractive rate at under 2%. The majority of the money will come through bonds, with $400,000 coming out of the current fund balance.  

“It is important to note that residents will have the ultimate decision-making power in this plan during an upcoming vote. That vote is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, April 21, 2021,” according to Supervisor Frank Robusto.

Voting yes for the resolution for the purchase and putting it up for a voluntary referendum were: Councilmen Scott TeWinkle, Jeremy Eaton, Tim Strickland and Supervisor Frank Robusto. Councilman Joseph Catalano was not in favor of the plan.

Robusto noted that, last Fall, he heard the Club was interested in selling. He started researching municipal golf courses – there are about 124 in New York State. Frank said he reached out to Monroe County for information, as they have three courses. 

“Parks & Recreation Director Bill Riddell and I spent many hours in discussion with Monroe County regarding operations and income/expense documents that were shared with us. Additionally, I spoke with other supervisors who have municipal courses. Everyone felt positive for the community, and that it should  financially not be a burden to the taxpayers,” said Robusto.

All of this background was shared  with the town board on February 4th of this year.  The bond would be $750,000 or less, with $400,000 in available funds.

Frank feels that the important item, is that this would sell in a heartbeat to a developer for homes for more than the town would be paying. “ I like homes, yet I believe our residents want to preserve open green space. The land alone is worth what we are paying,” Robusto  explained.

Councilman Joe Catalano was the only no vote. “I just don’t feel I can support this. I don’t know what the cost would be for the Town to run the golf club. I would be afraid we would run in the red. It is, after all, prime developable land for houses, or someone else could buy this golf course,” Joe speculated.

The Bond Resolution states that the town would authorize serial bonds in the amount of $750,000 to finance the acquisition of the land. The blended interest rate over the 20 year bond is anticipated to be 1.65%. 

The Town Board is required to offer a Permissive Referendum to the taxpayers for the purchase or acquisition of any land, which allows a 30 day period for anyone to protest the purchase, but the Ontario Town Board, chose to make this a voluntary Referendum so that the voters will decide if the plan goes through, without having to ut up a protest. The vote will be held  April 21st.

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