Public turns out in force on Normanside

The main fear expressed by those advocating for a purchase is the land will be acquired by a developer. But others said the open market should be allowed to take its course. The land is zoned rural and there are physical barriers to putting a development there, not the least of which are access and steep slopes.

Valerie Newell, a member of the town's Citizens Advisory Committee on Conservation, said the town's comprehensive plan and rezoning was developed to guide practical building, and it should be allowed to work as designed.

"What is it we're so afraid of?" she asked. "Where are we going to put the people who are going to work at Vista? How are we going to continue to grow?"

Perhaps the most-often heard statement from those opposing a public buy was that advocates for Normanside's preservation should put their own money on the line. Pam Skripak of the group Friends to Preserve Normanside said the organization was prepared to offer a $150,000 interest-free loan to the town. She also handed the Town Board a petition with 750 signatures.

George Carpinello drew a thunderous applause when he asked the Town Board to simply give running the course a try.

"I'm suggesting that the Normanside Country Club can be operated profitably as a municipal course," he said. "I say take the opportunity. If you don't make a profit in five years, sell the property."

The town must make a decision soon. Bids on the property are due to the Bank of America by Wednesday, Feb. 23. The course and its facilities are assessed at $3.2 million, but many feel it could be bought for much less.

Dan Byrnes, president of the defunct club, said the bank had no interest in foreclosing on the property itself and instead elected to auction it off. The private club had been hemorrhaging members for some time before closing with $4 million in debt.

Whether the town would be able to do better " either itself or by outsourcing operations " is the critical question at hand.

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