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Normanside on town's mind

Town officials in Bethlehem are considering making a bid on the now-defunct Normanside Country Club, which will be sold at auction later this month.

The Bethlehem Town Board is convening in a special, closed-doors meeting this afternoon to discuss real estate prospects. Under the laws governing such executive sessions, the board does not need to disclose details of the meeting, and officials declined to discuss the nature of the session. It was called on Friday afternoon, however, shortly after news broke that Normanside was shutting down after failing to find a buyer willing to continue operating it as a golf course.

Other area municipalities, including Colonie and Guilderland, operate large golf courses. Bethlehem already operates Colonial Acres, a 9-hole, par-3 course, without a banquet facility like Normanside.

Supervisor Sam Messina said he'd hope to see a private buyer emerge for the club, but now there's a discussion ongoing about buying the roughly 270-acre property.

This was a tax source and also a major recreational source in our town, Messina said. "The fact that it closed down is not good news for our community."

Town leadership has often said finances are becoming increasingly tight. The 2011 budget process saw the Town Board sparring over employee raises and spending plans, and that body is still deliberating what professional organizations to belong to, a matter amounting to less than $15,000.

It's unclear what Normanside could cost the town, but given the location and facilities, it would likely be a seven-figure deal. The difference between budget worries and a Normanside bid, said Councilman Kyle Kotary, is that such a purchase could be an investment opportunity.

"If we can turn a $20,000-plus profit at Colonial Acres, there's no reason why we could not " potentially " do the same at Normanside," he said. "I'm going to take a look at the numbers...and I'm going to say, especially now, does this make sense to us?"

During the peak season, Normanside usually employed around 60 and contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars in local property and sales taxes. At last count, the club had about 240 members.

The Bank of America will accept bids for the property's mortgage through Feb. 23.

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