City boards, survey mixed on park/golf

Survey says golf course favored
Scott Girard

File photo. The Common Council will consider this month whether to change Nine Spring Public Golf Course into a park.

If you go
What: Nine Springs Common Council decision
When: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 13
Where: City Hall
TV: FACTv, Ch. 98/986

City votes
Plan Commission: Golf Course
CEDA: Park
RCC: Golf Course
Park: Park
Public Works: Golf Course
Finance: Meeting May 13

A city survey seeking opinions on the future of Nine Springs Golf Course overwhelmingly supported keeping the area a golf course, but city commissions and boards have been mixed on their recommendations ahead of the Common Council’s vote.

The competing suggestions underscore months of debate on both sides of the issue while the city established a “park alternative plan” to have as an option if it decided to discontinue the golf course operation.

Meetings on developing the plan often turned into discussions around the value of keeping it a golf course or switching it to a park rather than outlining plans for a potential park.

The Common Council ultimately passed the park alternative plan at its March 25 meeting. Since then, numerous committees have weighed in, a city survey gathered nearly 1,000 responses and a county group presented a “Health Impact Assessment” to the Committee of the Whole.

The results have been mixed among all of those, leaving an uncertain decision set for May 13.

The Board of Public Works, the latest city body to take on the issue, voted to have the space remain a golf course at its May 5 meeting, with Ald. Dorothy Krause (Dist.-1) voting in opposition and Ald. Richard Bloomquist (D-2) supporting the golf course.

Four days earlier, the Park Commission voted to support the park alternative, a decision Park Commission chair Tom Darcy said the ultimately came down to the lack of park space in that neighborhood, something Ald. Jason Gonzalez (D-3) pointed out at the meeting.

“That part of the city was underserved in park land, and ultimately, I think that’s what swayed most of us to vote for the park,” Darcy told the Star.

Other city bodies that voted in April were the Community Economic Development Authority, which voted for the park option, the Plan Commission, which voted to keep Nine Springs a golf course with the knowledge that it could change in the future, and the Resource Conservation Committee, which supported the golf course.

Among those groups, Alds. Patrick Stern (D-2) and Becky Baumbach (D-4) voted on CEDA to support the park option. Baumbach also sits on the Plan Commission and voted against its golf course choice, though meeting minutes indicate she was unsure of how she’d ultimately vote on council.

Ald. Carol Poole (D-1) voted in favor of the plan commission’s decision to keep Nine Springs a golf course for now.

Ald. Steve Arnold (D-4) abstained from the Resource Conservation Committee vote, leaving him and Ald. Dan Carpenter (D-3) as the only alders yet to express an opinion with a vote, though even those who have voted could change their minds come May 13 with more information in front of them.

That includes the city survey results, with 66.1 percent of the 964 respondents voting to keep Nine Springs as a golf course. Of the 703 respondents who live in Fitchburg, 66.4 percent wanted to keep the golf course.

A city memo on the survey noted some questions of legitimacy, however. It said some IP addresses submitted numerous responses, including one that completed 62 responses in favor of the golf course option within a 20-minute period and another that responded three times for the golf course and 10 times for the park.

Finally, a county group presented to the city’s Committee of the Whole April 25, after the three April votes, with recommendations of how to handle the golf course or park once a decision is made based on conversations with golf course users and area residents.

The members of that group, though they made no formal recommendation between the two options, said they had heard anecdotally a high level of support for the park option from area residents.

The Finance Committee will make its recommendation immediately prior to the May 13 council meeting, as well.

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