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Watertown Golf Club pulls back from buying city land

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Watertown Golf Club officials have decided to hold off on acquiring about 66 acres of the 18-hole golf course at Thompson Park that the club now leases from the city.

Former Mayor Joseph M. Butler Sr., who serves on Watertown Golf Club’s board and is one of its principal stockholders, said Monday that the club will not pursue the nine holes the city owns but may readdress the issue in the future.

“We just feel the timing isn’t right,” Mr. Butler said, blaming a loss in green fees and other revenues caused by the unusually wet weather this spring and summer.

He said the club does not want the city to go through the long process of obtaining approval from the state Legislature if it’s not going to pursue a deal now. He said the cost of having the property appraised also is a factor.

Mr. Butler was unable to provide any specifics about the revenue losses, saying he would get more information at the club’s next meeting. The deal was in such an early stage, the city and the golf club had not discussed a purchase price.

In May, the golf club approached the city to see whether it would be willing to sell the land. About 10 days ago, club officials met with Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham and City Manager Sharon A. Addison for a second time before Mr. Butler informed the mayor that the club was holding off on acquiring the property.

Contacted Monday, Mr. Graham said, “They’ve decided not to purchase it, and I respect that.”

Besides the financial considerations, Mr. Graham said, he believes the golf club was expecting some unspecified opposition to its plans to buy the land.

The Watertown Golf Club has leased the 66 acres — holes seven through 15 — from the city since it expanded from nine to 18 holes in the early 1960s.

In 2006, the city and the club extended the lease through 2029, with the club making annual payments starting at $8,668 until 2014 and gradually increasing to $10,768 during the last four years of the agreement. The previous agreement would have expired in December 2009.

The public golf club has owned the other holes since it formed in 1926, and it built and owns the clubhouse, pro shop and maintenance building on its 57 acres of the course. The club has about 215 members and its board is made up of about 30 stockholders.

City Council members were aware of the golf club’s interest but had not yet discussed whether they would be interested in selling the land. Mr. Butler is the father of Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr., who would have had to abstain from the vote.

The state Legislature also would have to approve the sale because it involves park land.

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