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Public turns out in force on Normanside

No clear consensus on what should be done; town officials continue to deliberate

Bethlehem Town Hall's auditorium was stuffed to the gills last night, as the public was given an opportunity to sound off on the possibility of the town acquiring the defunct Normanside Golf Course's land.

Over 30 people approached the microphone to address the Town Board, which stood mute on the issue. Officials have been holding a series of closed-door meetings to discuss putting in a bid to purchase the property. This morning, they broke briefly from one such session to vote to accept environmental review documents, a step that would be required to make a buy.

The board returned to their deliberations after the vote.

The public hearing on the issue was called in hopes of collecting a public consensus on how the town should (or should not) proceed, but speakers fell more or less equally on either side of the issue.

Many opposing a land buy said there are better uses for tax dollars in these tough times. Some said they were against it for ideological reasons.

In a community such as this, when people are struggling to pay their bills, I believe it would be inappropriate for the town to use tax dollars to purchase this land...I believe it is immoral to take the public's tax dollars in order to subsidize golfers, Jeremy Near said to applause.

But some people said Normanside goes well beyond being just a golf course. The club has long allowed the public to use the land in the winter for snowshoeing, sledding and other activities, making it de facto parkland for part of the year.

"I have seen people come down that road from all over the place," said Sam Strasser, who has long lived near the course, in an impassioned statement. "I cannot imagine New York City without Central Park, and I cannot imagine Bethlehem without that beautiful central green area."

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