Sunday, May 13, 2012


Now that Mother’s Day, 2012 is in the books it’s time to look forward to next week and where we go from here.  It was hard not to celebrate the defeat of the bonds and to be honest I did. Then reality raised its ugly little head. And on this beautiful spring evening, in early May, I have a sad announcement to make: we didn’t win anything last Thursday.

Please pardon these, but to use another sports analogy all we did was stop the boards's offense. We didn’t score a single point.  And that's some superior defense considering that the odds have been stacked against us since Dirk Aube announced that they "had enough votes to win" on February 21st at the Public Hearing on the bonds. If you want something to celebrate, here it is: if we had not won by an overwhelming landslide on Thursday, the series would be over. We’d have been locked in to a losing proposition until 2032. And to a yearly payment of $360K for life support.

So, if we won anything it was the right to continue the fight to make Farmington Woods what the majority of residents want it to be. We’ve had years of the opposite of that happening here and we know where that leads. As my wife said the other day “the residents here finally woke up and spoke up.” And in a resounding way.

I said on Thursday that after speaking with Richard Matt, a Director on the District Board of Directors, who lamented the lack of a “Plan B” to turn to, I would present my own B, C, D, E, F, & possibly G alternatives. Of course, the decision to go forward minus a Plan B was the board"s, but they were sure they had enough votes to pass the bonds and get their plans approved. Otherwise they wouldn't have spent $43K of our district taxes on architechts, lawyers and bond brokers. So those of you with any Plan B, any idea beyond more years of losing money supporting golf, are ahead of the board that leads us here at Farmington Woods.

I’m going to briefly describe my plans B through possibly G now, plans that could get us out of our current dilemma and extricate us from the enterprise that has had its grip on Farmington Woods since it was purchased in 1985. And when you finish with my offerings, please add your own alternative plans for the way forward. I encourage you to in fact. After all, you and I own the entire operation.

B.     Sell it. This is the option that Heritage Village, Heritage Hills and Oronoque Village all used in the 90’s to get out from under the burden of running a golf operation. I have spoken to two golf brokers since this bonding issue started and both said people are still buying courses. Oronoque was purchased by Century Golf Group and is managed by Arnold Palmer Golf. They have 385 members and resident of the village are considered “social members” and pay no minimums.

C.     Hire an outside company to run it. Arnold Palmer Golf is just one of many companies that manage courses both public and private. And they are doing a stellar job at Oronoque. The staff is extremely friendly, membership is up and the restaurant makes a profit, and serves delicious food without the need for minimums.

D.    Lease it to a private company or the town. The 2009 ad hoc Committee to Study Golf said this option needed to be revisited. As a matter of fact after recommending that residents sustain the golf club during lean years they also said that the whole issue, including yearly losses over almost a decade, should be revisited yearly due to the decline of golf worldwide since 2008. Instead we got a $4M bond proposal. That the board entusiastically endorsed.

E.     Members form an LLC and purchase it, thereby maintaining control. This is what 67 members at Tumble Brook Country Club in Bloomfield did when that club went bankrupt. This option, like the previous three, would free us of the burden of funding the golf operation and return $30 per month into the hands of residents who have been shoring up the clubhouse operation with monthly assessments since the 90’s.

F.      Reduce the course to nine holes and open it up to the public. According to one source I spoke with if we do this we may as well hang an “Out of Business” sign on the front gate. He claims this would be the beginning of the end of golf at Farmington Woods. And given the state of golf, both in  Connecticut and worldwide this would probably lead to my last option and one that many believe would be the ideal use of the natural beauty that we all own.

G.     Close the course and turn it into a giant park available for use by all. This option scares some and is the top choice of others. The town of Avon is in the process of developing commercial and residential property which will include a park for residents to enjoy. It’s often said that the golf course increases our property values, but not when it's losing money. And I’ve yet to hear of one resident of Park Avenue East complaining of Central Park being next door. The board warns that it would cost residents $25 a month to maintain it, but we would be saving $30 per month in restaurant minimums. Fortunately for us, this option is available to us if things get dire, thanks to the defeat of the "20 year debt sentence."

So there you have it, my plans B through possibly G. And I’m sure there are others. The 2009 committee had some other wild ideas like building a wind farm or running a tree farm on the open space. But they concluded that using it for golf “produced more resources” than any other use for the land.  They were adamant that using it as open space was not cost effective, based on their own in-house surveys. But losing resident's money every year was just fine.

Unfortunately, they also came to the conclusion that “The long range goal should be for the Golf Operation to be fiscally independent. However we just don’t know whether or not that is achievable.” That was in 2009 and this year they came to the conclusion, after focus groups overwhelmingly voiced their desire that golf be "self-supporting",  and with golf still losing nearly  $200K per year, that it was in the best interests of residents, who were already supporting it with condo fees, district taxes and monthly minimums, to float $4M in bonds to keep these money losing enterprises going.

I can only draw one conclusion from what I just wrote. I’ve read it several times and more importantly I’ve been studying and writing about this issue for months now. And that conclusion is this: We need new leadership here at Farmington Woods. The people in charge had a chance to do something about the problem that has been ongoing for a decade now. They chose to stay the course.

We need for Irene Loretto, Dan Sullivan, Adam Briggs, Ivan Mendelsohn and Dirk Aube to step aside and allow people who can represent all of us lead us into the future. We need to rid ourselves of the myth that we are a "golf community" dependent on golf for our property values. Lots of things add value here: the excellent school systems of Avon and Farmington, our beautiful setting, our access to Rails to Trails bike and walking trails. our proximity to Unionville our own little town. 

We have been led to believe that one special interest, golf,  binds this community together and defines it. We have discovered otherwise. Times have changed, the economy has changed and the demographics of our little village have changed in the last tweny years. I see more baby carriages here now than golf carts. That should tell you something.

The bonding issue was a referendum not only on where our money should be spent, but on what direction Farmington Woods should take in order to be fiscally solvent in the next twenty years. The present Tax District Board has shown us that they don’t or won’t listen to what residents want and don’t have the ability to “think outside the box” in a way that will help this community move forward into the future.

They have given many years to Farmington Woods, but it’s time to find a new direction with new ideas and that requires new leadership.

Comments? You're welcome to email me at

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