AP NEWS

Voters Pass Question on Club

May 16, 2019

TYNGSBORO — Voters on Tuesday narrowly passed a Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion ballot question centered on the Tyngsboro Country Club.

The ballot question will allow the town the ability to borrow the full amount necessary to purchase the country club co-owned by Tammy Garau and her brother, Bobby Spindell. According to an unofficial tally of votes released by the Town Clerk’s Office, 580 people voted yes and 540 voted no during the annual town election.

The voter turnout was 12.81%. A total of 1,136 people voted out of a total of 8,868 registered voters, according to unofficial results released by Town Clerk Joanne Shifres.

“This was an important step for the overall process to move forward,” said Town Administrator Matt Hanson. “The next step is the coming Town Meeting on May 21. There are two warrant articles regarding the golf course purchase. That’s the final authorization that the Board of Selectmen needs in order to complete the sale.”

Annual Town Meeting will be held at 7 p.m. next Tuesday at Tyngsboro Elementary School, 205 Westford Road.

Below is a brief description of each warrant article centered on the golf course:

* One article looks to see if the town will vote to raise, appropriate, transfer from available funds, borrow, or otherwise provide a sum of money not to exceed $4 million to be expended under the direction of the Board of Selectmen to purchase, take by eminent domain or otherwise acquire the country club.

* The second looks to see if the town will appropriate a sum of money, not to exceed $850,000 to purchase 48 and 56 Sherburne Ave. These are parcels adjacent to the Tyngsboro Country Club, according to the warrant.

Hanson on Tuesday night said officials intend on continuing — at least for the immediate future — to operate the country club as a golf course. He has said that this is the only option that preserves the main 85-acre Tyngsboro Country parcels. All other options would lead to some form of residential development.

The expected total purchase price would be $4 million for the golf course parcels, according to Hanson. There are also two riverfront parcels included in that purchase price that are unbuildable.

“I’m happy it passed and I’m looking forward to the discussion at the Annual Town Meeting,” said Selectmen Chair Rick Reault, who has been in favor of the town purchasing the country club. “We’ll see how the discussion goes.”

Though Garau and Spindell have been under agreement with Toll Brothers for the company to build a community for adults 55 and older, Tyngsboro has the right of first refusal because the property on which the country club stands is under the state’s Chapter 61B program. This program gives preferential tax treatment to landowners who maintain their property as open space for recreation.

Garau did not respond to requests for comment.

Selectman Ron Keohane said he thinks the residents have spoken: they want this to be open space.

“Even some people who voted no prefer this to be open space. The issue that I have, and that other residents have, is the price. We’re paying too much for the golf course,” Keohane said Wednesday afternoon. “I think a fair price to the owner of the golf course and to the residents of Tyngsboro is between $3 to $3.5 million. I think that’s what it’s worth, and it’s fair to the owners and to the taxpayers of Tyngsboro.”

Toll Brothers Division President David Bauer on Tuesday afternoon declined to comment on whether the company’s hope to build in Tyngsboro hinged on Tuesday’s vote. In an email, he reiterated that the company “would love the opportunity to build a community in Tyngsboro.”

Asked to comment on the vote, Bauer late Wednesday morning repeated his previous statement. “At this time our comment remains that we would love the opportunity to build a community in Tyngsboro,” he wrote.

In an email last month to The Sun, Bauer said the company was still in an agreement to purchase the property. “This agreement contemplates the 204-home community that was previously presented at various town meetings,” wrote Bauer on April 29, adding that Toll Brothers was awaiting a final determination on whether the town will purchase.

This plan, and an alternative one proposed by Toll Brothers for 66 detached 55-plus homes on a smaller portion of the property, would have required a zoning change.

As for the town election, all races were uncontested this year.

Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.