Thursday, May 9, 2013

Fore!


 Cherry Hill Golf Course behind the curtain

With no discussion except my own and not a single "no" vote other than mine, a noticeably smaller (from Monday nights grand start) Amherst Town Meeting approved the Cherry Hill Golf Course operation budget for its 27th year of municipal operation as a "business."


And I even wore a new shirt

The 66 acre 9 hole golf course was taken by eminent domain under an "emergency measure" making the drastic action referendum proof in the spring of 1987, with an original cost of $1.6 million.

159 North Amherst NIMBYs signed a petition to get it on the Town Meeting warrant to stop a 134 unit Planned Unit Residential Development proposed by Cambridge architect Robert Kreger. 

But then after an appraisal became public, Town Meeting had to reconvene and add another $600,000 to the original appropriation bringing the total cost of acquisition to $2.2 million ($4.4 million in today's dollars), to date the most costly land purchase in town history.

Not to mention the $1 million the golf course lost in operations as an Enterprise Fund, which are supposed to be self supporting like a private sector business.  Town Meeting gave up on that idea and dissolved the enterprise fund status in November of 2006, rolling the course back into the General Fund where it's far easier to hide overhead costs like employee benefits, insurance, capital heavy equipment purchases.
 
And golf is a heavy equipment Godzilla.  Next year for instance they will request $97,500 in capital, none of which will be considered part of their "operation budget".

But year after year Town Meeting bestows their undying support using taxpayer money.  Even Sensible Center types sometimes wonder ...

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Winston Churchill once famously said, "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." In Amherst it could become, "When Town Meeting does not learn from history, taxpayers are doomed to regret it."

Article #43 calls for the town to "Purchase a Conservation Restriction" on 154 acres of woodland for $1.2 million in northeast Amherst that is already under a purchase-and-sale agreement for $6.5 million.  Once again to stop a large development of badly needed housing.

Stop The Retreat sign (cheaper by the dozen)

But the courts have long ago ruled that a municipality using the Godlike power of eminent domain must pay "highest and best use" price for the property.  Or in this case, $6.5 million!!!

More than the town has in combined total reserves between Free Cash ($4,326,501) and Stabilization ($1,821,401).

Since the town has "right of first refusal" on the property, North Amherst NIMBYs should simply put up or shut up:

Raise the $6.5 million required to match Landmark Properties' offer to W.D. Cowls, Inc ... and then, even I will support this Children's Crusade cause.

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From their Facebook page

"Must be halted immediately."  Getting a tad aggressive are we not?

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just curious, why would the People raising this money change your opinion on Amherst's student housing needs?

Larry Kelley said...

It wouldn't.

I'm a simple, basic American kind of guy ... so nothing (other than the First Amendment of course) is more important than property rights.

Cinda Jones knowingly signed that property into Ch 61 for the tax breaks but granting the town "right of first refusal."

So if the town wished to use it, then she can't complain.

My only complaint is I do not wish the taxpayers to get stuck financing a selfish cause.

Anonymous said...

Hey Cinda,

Enjoy the tax bill:

<To insure that land under Chapter 61 is actually managed in a long-term sustainable fashion, there is a penalty for withdrawal from the program and changing it to residential, industrial or commercial use. This penalty consists of payment for the difference between taxes paid and taxes deferred plus interest. The penalty is computed for the previous five years under certification.

Matt said...

It is the surest sign of a contemporary liberal education on economics that most of the members of the Amherst Town Meeting do not understand that preventing the supply of housing from approaching the demand for it increases the prices for the existing housing and enables the owners to neglect their properties while encouraging them to do nothing about the behavior of their tenants and to violate the town by-laws regarding rentals because they know that there are students willing to pay very high prices to live off campus -- much higher than the fines the town can levy on violators. As for the golf course, has the Department of Revenue ever taken a look at it? I think it would interest them.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that tax bill will be factored in to what Landmark is paying for the property.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, like any tax payments actually come out of Cinda's stash. It's "company money" that pays the bills.

Walter Graff said...

Hey Larry, get some shoes. You look like a schlub in those dirty sneakers, new shirt and all.

Anonymous said...

Aww, I love when you two good buddies give each other little jabs. So cute.

Larry Kelley said...

Sheesh, now I'm glad I at least changed out of my favorite sweatshirt: UMass/Amherst (a hoodie no less).

Anonymous said...

Wow! Now Wally is the shoe police!

Anonymous said...

With the craziness of moving out day at UMass - couldn't tree trimming along E Pleasant St (between Village Park and the UMass police station)have WAITED until Monday???

Walter Graff said...

You can't blame them. Many bought their homes or have lived in these homes as multi-generational families in what they thought was a pretty nice, quite area to live. With the inevitable sale of the property, some pretty nice homes tucked away in the woods, won't be so hidden under a rock.

Henry street is already a major bypass for the town and as a person who uses it every day, it has a lot of traffic as it is with little room for expansion. With the new retreat a traffic circle will be built in front of Cushman Cafe and Pine St widened, a lot more traffic will be on the road. And of course there is always the potential for college noise. I said potential, not a fact and not that way in every college house in Amherst.

The bright side that many don't understand is that their property value will increase. So wait till it's built and till the property value goes up and sell. Find another quite community. Amherst days as a sleepy town where a crazy poet lived is coming to an end. It's a company town and as one, you don't really own anything.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Graff, what makes you think that many people don't understand that their property values will increase?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Graff,

You are truly erudite. If only you knew how to spell the word quiet.

Walter Graff said...

I do know quite well how to spell quiet. Unfortunately automatic spelling correction often gets the best of me before I even notice. None of that changes the fact that the Retreat is being built.

Walter Graff said...

"Mr. Graff, what makes you think that many people don't understand that their property values will increase?"

Because of the ten or so residents I've talked to, all have expressed the concern that their property values will decrease and that their home is their only real investment.

Anonymous said...

You, sir, are full of shit.

And even if you HAD talked to 10 residents who expressed concerns about their property values going down, does that equal... most?

If you can name the ten residents (or so) who expressed the concern to YOU that their property values will go down, I will apologize to you.

Anonymous said...

Walter,

How is it that their property values will go up? Please explain. I would think that living next to hundreds of partying, noisy students would have the opposite effect.

Anonymous said...

Winston Churchill once famously said, "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

Well, other than the fact that Churchill never said that quote you are 100% accurate.

Anonymous said...

With no discussion except my own and not a single "no" vote other than mine...Amherst Town Meeting approved the Cherry Hill Golf Course operation budget for its 27th year of municipal operation as a "business."

I honestly can't help but wonder whether your approach to this whole issue is what is keeping people from wanting to cooperate with you, regardless of whether they agree or not. You spent a lot of time calling the town manager names, writing divisive letters to the Bulletin... similar to the flags issue: why would someone you keep calling "Princess Stephanie" want to get on board with you? And it's the same problem Sanderson had getting anyone to get on board with her, despite many having the same agenda, and many of her agenda item have been fulfilled after she "resigned". I'm not saying it's a good reason to not act, but, people are funny, you know?

Have you considered this, Larry?

Larry Kelley said...

Yes, people are "funny."

Anonymous said...

What a stupid group of people to keep voting for to keep Cherry Hill open just because Larry is encouraging closing it?! So you have to ask them nicely? That's soooo New England. Why can't they just see it for the black hole it is and stop throwing money away?

Anonymous said...

Question for Walter, you say you travel thru cushman everyday. Is that because it's the route you take your kids to the Amherst schools on the way from your rented home in Sunderland? If they went to school in Sunderland, wouldn't you be free from looking at our town that seems to offend you so.

Anonymous said...

Because they WANT Cherry Hill.


It's the same as asking, "Why did we get Richard Nixon?" Because they voted for him!

Sheesh.

Larry Kelley said...

Actually the ones who want Cherry Hill to remain a moribund golf business are the neighbors who have it in their backyard and golfers who benefit by the subsidy.

Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

What a stupid group of people to keep voting for to keep Cherry Hill open just because Larry is encouraging closing it?

Just because a cowardly anon (me) said it doesn't make it fact, anon. You really should be more careful about what and how you read things on the internet, you're gonna end up believing a lot of crap otherwise.

Anonymous said...

So Mr. Kelley, why do you think people keep voting, nearly unanimously, to keep it open? It's not just the neighbors and subsidized golfers who vote, correct? The members who represent me voted to keep it operating.

Anonymous said...

Do Walter's kids spend most of their time at their dad's house in Sunderland?

'Cause if his kid's are going to school here and he is skirting residency requirements, I'm gonna make him pay.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kelley, do the lawn mowers, trash barrels, basketball hoops, charcoal grills, swings, picnic tables and other accoutrements in our recreational facilities ever wear out? Of course they do. They rack up costs every year. It is just part of the collective nature of towns that people who never play golf, soccer, swim, hike on trails or ride bike paths contribute to those who do. You act like Cherry Hill has a problem that none of our parks, soccer fields, or swimming pools have. All of our recreational facilities need upkeep and the people at Town Meeting are not stupid, they just understand it.

Larry Kelley said...

Mr. or Ms. Anon:

Golf is a very expensive niche recreational activity the town has no business being in the business of.

Anonymous said...

More people in this town play golf than play baseball or tennis, but we maintain those like we do the golf course.

Anonymous said...

"Expensive niche"...Actually, its only because of Cherry Hill that my sons and I could/can afford to play golf.
Walking outdoors in a beautiful place and spending time not only with my sons as they were growing up (and now with my grandson AND granddaughter), their friends and mine is about as perfect a way to spend time as I can imagine.
Democracy still seems to beat the alternatives even if sometimes you don't agree with the vote.

Larry Kelley said...

Exactly. The town is artificially bringing down the price of golf so you and your family can afford to play.

Key word being "play."

The town and state also subsidizes transportation via PVTA.

They could either spend tax money buying a large bus that seats many people, or they could by three or four BMWs that only seat a few.

The BMW would be far more fun to get around in, but not a very good deal for taxpayers who foot the bill.

cow-anon-troll said...

Exactly. The town is artificially bringing down the price of golf so you and your family can afford to play.

That is an excellent point.

If I promise to intersperse my comments with some like these, will you continue to post them?

Anonymous said...

It's not a niche any more than tennis courts are a niche. I play golf but I never visit the library, yet I'm not complaining the town supports it. Cherry Hill is making golf affordable, so you don't have to belong to a country club to play it. As for the town's business in owning a course, there are 2,500 cities and towns that own golf courses, so this is not exactly a rarity.

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, bring down the price of golf via non profit municipal white elephants to better compete with "country clubs" who do pay property taxes. That's fair.

And of the 2,500 cities and towns that own golf courses the majority of them lose money.

Anonymous said...

You are making my case. They lose money but they bring other benefits to the towns that make them worth it.

Larry Kelley said...

Said by a self interested Anon who benefits by it.

Anonymous said...

Tennis should only be available to people who can afford to be a member at a tennis club that pays property taxes.

Anonymous said...

You are right about that too, Larry. I'm an Amherst resident (also known as a taxpayer) that plays golf there! Thus proving my point again.

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, and probably no kids in the ultra expensive schools so you should be able to get a perk somewhere I suppose.

Anonymous said...

That's my perspective.

Larry Kelley said...

And you're darn we'll entitled to it, as selfish as it may be.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for seeing my perspective. It's no more selfish than people that want soccer fields or glass cases for Civil War relics. Everyone wants something.

Larry Kelley said...

Which is why we need to dump Town Meeting.

They try to be everything to everyone (except the common sense crowd), and are so easily manipulated by the squeaky wheels.