Thursday, April 19, 2012



Farmington Woods Condo Budget Battle: Golfers Versus Non Golfers

April 19, 2012

A divisive battle is taking place at the giant Farmington Woods Condo complex in Avon where a minority of the golfers want the whole complex to pay millions of dollars to install a new irrigation system owned by the tax district, which represents the complex.

The following is written by Lee Lagasse is Chairman of FW Resident for Fiscal Responsibility and blogs about this issue at

As a non-golfer and as someone who believes that private golf courses have no way to go but downhill, he opposed having his district taxes increased by 18 percent for the benefit of golfers. He thinks there are many other maintenance priorities that the money should be used for. He is including photos of that in this article.
Others who feel differently are welcome to state their views at CtWatchdog.
Whether you live at Farmington Woods or in any condo, or considering buying a condo, you need to read this to know what kinds of issues you might face.

By Lee Lagasse

On May 10th Farmington Woods Condominium residents in Avon, CT will vote on two separate bond proposals which, if passed, will increase yearly district taxes by 18% or an average of nearly $500 per unit.

As it is, residents here are overburdened by town taxes, condominium fees, the aforementioned district taxes and a $30.00 monthly restaurant minimum. And if opening your yearly property tax bill causes your eye to twitch and your hands to tremble, consider that for residents here town property taxes amount to just one third of their total tax liability.

The proposed bonds, totaling $6.8M with interest, are for the purposes of installing a new irrigation system for a failing golf course located on the property and making improvements to the money losing clubhouse including an elevator, redesigned entranceway and a horseshoe bar for the restaurant.

Originally bundled together and presented at informational meetings in early February with a scheduled vote in March, residents were able to convince the board at a Public Hearing to delay the vote until May 10th and unbundle the two bonds so that they could be voted on separately. 

The board is facing some unusually stiff opposition from this normally laissez faire community in the hills of Avon, but as has been the case in the past, they think they have the votes to win. They have said so publicly. But this time the outcome could be different.


If Farmington Woods was a town, its population of roughly 2000 residents would outnumber 10 towns on the list of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. But it isn’t a town, it’s a condominium community with 1,084 homes spread over 375 acres of what used to be apple orchards and two “real” towns, Avon and Farmington. It may not be a town as such, but it does have two forms of government: a condominium association and a tax district.
Unlike those 10 smaller towns on the list it doesn’t have an elementary school, a senior center, a library or parks with statues of Revolutionary War heroes. There wouldn’t be funds available for those things even if residents wanted them. There is, however, an enterprise at Farmington Woods that is never without necessary funding, even in years when membership is waning, and that’s the golf course that winds through the hills and valleys surrounding the units.

The course has been running in the red for the past six years. Between golf operations and the adjoining clubhouse, losses have totaled more than $1.3M over the last six years but both enterprises have been sustained by condo fees and district taxes for operational and capital improvements respectively, since about 2005.

Ironically, 2005 was to be the year that the twenty year, million dollar bond that funded the purchase of the course in the 80’s would finally be paid off. At a cost of $100K per year over the twenty year bond period, residents were looking forward to spending the money on other capital improvements such as sidewalks and upgrades to community property including among other things a small fitness center at the clubhouse

Unfortunately, the tax district had other ideas for the money: providing $68,000 to replace sand traps, improve irrigation and remove trees on the golf course. When a resident group brought up the fact that $20K had already been spent for a new bathroom on the 14th tee, the board countered by saying that the bathroom funds had been approved in the previous budget and were therefore not part of the this particular discussion. End of story. Two years later a moratorium was placed on building new sidewalks.
How is it that the needs of a community of close to 2000 individuals get overshadowed by those of a relatively small special interest group? And why does the condo board have the power to use resident fees and taxes to subsidize a golf club operation with resident membership of 89? To understand you have to familiarize yourself with the political and cultural makeup of this small “town”.



  1. As a real estate agent and home stager I still have a number if unanswered questions. Should we abandon supporting the golf course what would that vast amount of space look like. Many people have purchased units directly on the fairways specifically for their views. I am not a golfer and I own a condo in FL. that has a TPC rated golf course. The owners who want to belong to the golf club and have the use of a much more elaborate clubhouse and restaurant an annual cost of almost $10,000 per year. Those of us such as myself pay higher HOA fees and have a small but nice clubhouse, no restaurant. I think as OWNERS with our condos as investments we need to know how NOT HAVING these facilities will effect the marketability of our homes. I don't see this mentioned or discussed. Although I openly admit not using the restaurant frequently I DO USE IT. It's a wonderful place to bring house guests and the bar was so crowded a few weeks ago a group of us had to leave and go off site. Although I have no disability I have always been aware of how poorly accessible the clubhouse is. It's dated and needs to be freshened up. I would gladly donate free time to helping redecorate it as I have done many design projects cost effectively. It should be made accessible for all and although it is not turning a profit I am under the belief it has been self sustaining. I think we're lucky to have it. I do think I would rather see funds go towards updating the look of the community. Many of these units look very dated and siding would be a great option. More and more buyers are less impressed with the appearance of FW. Too many trees as well. My unit is shrouded in towering trees causing mold to grow all over my deck and a tree to physically touch and lean towards the unit. First priority should be freshening and updating the community for ALL OF US who pay these fees. I agree that the golf should sustain itself but I still wonder what will become of the course if no longer used.

  2. Snowbird13,

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned "unanswered questions." There are many unanswered questions here, among them being why in the 90's did the residents of FW buy into the concept that this was some kind of a country club and because their restaurant was failing they were obliged to support it with a $20 per month minimum (assessment).

    When the course was purchased in 1985 that purchase was approved in a referendum by a slim margin. There were 300 resident members then; there are 89 resident members now. How do we go on year after year supporting an entity that should have been sold years ago, as other Connecticut golf resort communities of the '70's did wisely years ago?

    But we're in the present and we have to deal with the situation as it was handed to us. Here's an answer to one of your queries, in the form of a question, regarding units on the course purchased "specifically for the views". Would the absence of the few golfers who actually roam the links of FW really change the view that much? It would still be beautiful. And I've never heard of the folks who live on Park Avenue in New York comlaining about their view.

    But I'm not advocating the dissolution of the golf club or restaurant. I do enjoy the club on occasion, but I resent having to pay what I call a monthly "taximum" to keep it operating when the folks in Stratford who live at Oronoque Village are considered "social members" at Oronoque Country Club and they pay nothing for this privilege. They can use the restaurant or not; it's their choice and they don't pay anything if they don't use it.

    That's the way it should be. We are not members of a country club here, we are members of a community called Farmington Woods. Yes, there is an entity here called the Farmington Woods Golf Club, but it has been unprofitable for the past decade and then some and unlike the banks on Wall Street it should not be allowed the excuse of "to big to fail".

    There are buyers out there; I have checked. There are people who have offered to evaluate our course for free to see if it's financially viable enough to float $43K,let alone $4M worth of bonds to keep it on life support. Remember, the bonds are for specific capitol improvements only, but these two operations need additional infusions of our dollars every year and will continue to need those, until they, as another resident here has been known to say, "bleed the life out of this community."

    Tiger Woods isn't coming back to help. The economy is not cooperating either. I agree with you about the look of the community today. We took a poll of a dozen local realtors and their overall opinion was that FW looks tired and dated. And while I still have a widow maker from last October's storm hanging perilously over my deck; there are none left on the course. The club manager hired a separate tree company to make sure of that.

    It is not the residents who are against "outsiders" coming in to play golf here. They come in every day as delivery men, contractors, guests of wedding parties, and yes, outside golfers playing in tournaments here. The people who don't want outsiders playing here are the resident and non-resident golfers who enjoy their private golf club of 189 members while residents support the requisite clubhouse with $30 a month contributions, $140K of which went unused last year.

    Here's a question for you: why wasn't that amount returned into the general fund for improvements to the community at large? And how is being fronted almost $400K a year up front before a single burger is served and then not making a profit acceptable in today's market economy? Question, questions, there are so many questions.