Town of Penfield residents have voted to approve having the town borrow $3.65 million to buy the Shadow Pines Golf Course and the Clark House buildings.
Several thousand people turned out to vote on Tuesday on the two propositions, and they passed by about a 4 to 1 margin.
The referendum on Tuesday was forced by a petition circulated last December. And the vote came after a one-year moratorium that had been placed on the property after it was put up for sale in 2016.
The turnout was higher than I anticipated,” said Town Supervisor Tony LaFountain. “I’d said all along that we’d probably have between four and five thousand and obviously we’re closer to 7,000. So, the turnout was great and I’m delighted that many residents came out. In too many elections, we see the numbers very low.”
“I voted no mainly because the Town Board of six people were going to spend $3.6 million without having us vote for it,” said Robert Wrona, a Penfield resident. “So when it came time and we knew this was coming up, the Board said there wasn’t enough time to have the referendum. We had a fella who did the research and said yes there is.”
Wrona said that Penfield already has a lot of parks.
“I’m a veteran, a real American,” he said. “I think Penfield is a nice place to raise a family. Why not let Americans live right here in Penfield and experience the same thing instead of watching trees grow. That’s what they’re doing- watching trees grow.”
But for Save the Shadows leader Jeff Burns, watching the trees grow doesn’t sound too bad. He wants the land to be used recreationally and stay a green space.
“You can imagine the benefit to the town to own the land adjacent and the recreational opportunities,” Burns said. “It’d be a game changer for Penfield. You know you’ve got Fairport and Pittsford have the canal, Webster has lake Ontario. Right now Penfield, we’ve got (Route) 441 going through a village.”
But the work isn’t done. Tuesday’s vote is just the beginning, said LaFountain.
“Once we have it under ownership, one might say the hard work starts, right?” he said. “There are so many people who have so many different and good ideas as to what to do with the property.”
Burns said Save Shadow Pines is happy to help however it can. He suggested they morph into a “Friends of Shadow Pines” group and offer volunteer clean-up and maintenance.
Next, LaFountain said town officials have to sell and market bonds, then they’ll do the paperwork to purchase the land. In the immediate future, the space is likely to be used for passive recreation, said Burns. However, before residents can walk their dogs and jog through Shadow Pines, the town will have to check trees and ensure the park’s safety.
The Penfield Town Board has said that it will explore the potential of the property for future land uses, such as a combination of open space for recreational uses and general municipal uses such as a future community center, library, lodge, trails, playgrounds or other public facilities.
The final plan still is to be determined. A committee of residents will be established to make recommendations to the town board.
Town officials estimate the cost of the land purchase approved on Tuesday will be about $11 dollars a year for 30 years on a property valued at $190,000.