WENHAM — The fate of the Lakeview Golf Course in Wenham has been decided. The Board of Selectman voted Tuesday night to allow the current owners, the Flynn family, to sell the property to developers rather than to the town.
The 2-1 vote in favor of a proposed development by the firm Atlantic Tambone was made after about an hour of input and deliberation from members of the Lakeview Advisory Committee, which was established at the end of January, and the selectmen.
“Obviously we’re very happy,” said Tony Tambone, owner of Atlantic Tambone, after the vote. “The [selectmen and committee] looked at the issue very hard, I have to give them credit for doing as much as they did, I think they did a great job.”
Given the decision, the property will be converted from its 61B classification — which means the land owners had paid reduced taxes because property is used for recreational purposes, and the town had a first dibs to buy it — to residential uses.
Atlantic Tambone will develop the site within the parameters of an already agreed upon Host Community Agreement with the town. That agreement allows for 23 to 28 new duplex-style townhouses that would be clustered together, leaving 40 percent of the nearly 35-acre property as open space.
A minimum of 10 percent of the condos would be affordable under state guidelines; the remaining homes would be marketed at more than $1 million apiece. Additionally, all development would be set back 500 feet from Route 1A.
The vote, which was generally supported by town leaders, was at odds with the majority sentiment expressed thus far by many residents.
At a Jan. 19 hearing on whether the town should buy the property, which was assessed at $2.75 million, there weren’t too many issues raised against the proposal from Atlantic Tambone, according to Town Manager Peter Lombardi. Most people were concerned about increasing school enrollments with new families in town, which then led to Tambone agreeing to restrict housing to 55 and older.
Residents, however, did strongly support the town acquiring the property instead, both at that hearing and via letters to selectmen afterward. Ninety-six residents opined on the situation in letters and 67 favored the town purchasing the land.
Several ideas were suggested for use of the land, including a town-run golf course, athletic fields, open space and a solar energy plant.
“No one use was favored overwhelmingly,” said Lombardi, prior to Tuesday’s meeting. “I think the feedback was more just that it was an important property that the town should acquire. It’s a gateway coming into the community, so it’s a pretty high-profile property.”
Tom Starr, a member of the advisory committee voiced this point on Tuesday. He said the value of having the property remain as open space, an attractive entrance into the town, merits consideration despite the financial implications.
“To weigh that question, you have to divorce it from the money. I think there’s a bigger question,” said Starr. “Lakeview is part of what defines the entry into our town... maybe giving up something like that is a little less easy to put a number on.”
Another committee member, Sandy Belock-Phippen, thought the risk wasn’t that high for the town to buy it, and it would give the town instead time to find an even better use for the land.
Selectmen Chairwoman Catherine Harrison supported acquiring the land because she wanted the entire Wenham community to have an opportunity to weigh in and vote on the issue.
On the other hand, Mike Lucy, chair of the Finance Committee, noted that given the current and future financial struggles the town faces, it would be more practical to allow Atlantic Tambone to buy the land. That way it would be money going “in the door, not out,” he said, adding that the FinCom unanimously supported the Tambone bid.
Harriet Davis, chair of the Community Preservation Committee, said the majority of her group also agreed the Tambone proposal was a good deal. Dana Bagnell of the Historic District Commission said the developers’ plan continues their effort to maintain the gateway into the community.
“There is no compelling reason to buy this for municipal use,” said Win Dodge, a former town official and current resident. “I think we should move forward and turn over this development. We know it’s going to be done right. It’s a great HCA agreement which we won’t have in the future. The risk is substantial if we don’t end this this evening.”
Selectmen Jack Wilhelm and John Clemenzi, who agreed with Dodge and cited their own concerns, voted to pass on the town exercising its right to buy the property.
Atlantic Tambone will now set to work moving forward with the design plans. Tony Tambone did not have a timeline for when the project would be completed.
Staff writer Amanda Ostuni can be reached at 978-338-2660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.