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Reading the greens

"There's value in a community of shared resources," he said.

The Friends of Normanside said the petition signatures that have been collected are not just from the area surrounding Normanside, but from all over the town. The petition also advocates for the town to engage in a discussion with Bank of America.

Colonial Acres, round 2?

The town is not a stranger to the golf course business. In 2007 it took over operation of the Colonial Acres golf course in Glenmont when that business ran into tough times.

Today that course runs at a roughly $20,000 yearly profit. But it is markedly different from Normanside. The scale is an obvious factor, with the country club dwarfing Colonial Acres' 9-hole, par-3 course. Colonial Acres also has just a small clubhouse.

Also, Bethlehem didn't actually buy Colonial Acres. The property was acquired by the Open Space Institute, a group that buys up land across the state with the goal of preserving green space. A state agency also chipped in money to meet the nearly $1 million purchase price. The town leases the course for $1 per year.

It remains to be seen if another such partnership could be struck. The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, which owns 30 acres right next to the golf course, said it would love to see the land kept open but wouldn't be able to pitch in financially.

"We would definitely hate to see it turned into a housing development," said the group's Jill Knapp. "Unfortunately we don't have funds to purchase it, but we'd be willing to work with other groups."

The group does hold a parcel of land in Colonie that neighbors purchased themselves then turned over for protection, but that land was sold for $150,000, a fraction of what Normanside is worth.

Perhaps the most important difference is that the Colonial Acres deal was brokered without a deadline between parties who all had something to gain. The Normanside auction will be by sealed bid. Even if the town or other groups decide to put up money, they could be outbid.

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