In an unexpected development in the more than six year saga over the potential development of a world class golf course in North Canaan and Norfolk, CT, the developers have withdrawn their application. Citing the collapse of America's economy" , they said that as “painful as it is to give up the fight (we came to quite enjoy it) it is the only prudent course of action. ” They conceded in a letter to the State DEP on Monday that a $25 million investment for the project “could no longer be justified.”
This has been a divisive plan since 2002 when a partnership of Slade Mead, representing the family members who inherited the 780-acre, 17 parcel property; David A. Tewksbury; and Roland A Betts decided to pursue the project. Initially described as a membership community with associated residences, the eventual permits filed were only for the golf course.
The fight over the development of this property became bitter and partisan, with million expended in legal and design costs by the applicants and by interveners opposed to the project as excessive and needlessly detrimental to water quality and other conservation values. For some it boiled down to landowner rights verses the interests of conservationists, who made several serious offers that were not accepted to buy out the developers and conserve the vast majority of the land in a limited development proposal.
The property could still be developed into as many as 34 approval not required lots, and there are five residences currently on the site. The same economic factors that contributed to the non-viability of the golf course proposal also apply to large residential subdivisions in our area at the moment. There is also considerable bad blood between abuttors and proponants of the golf development. I believe that there still could be a financially attractive limited development conservation outcome, but only if those with site control wish to consider such a plan. In the last paragraph of their withdrawal letter, the developers say:
"The Mead family has owned the Yale Farm property for over 90 years, Roland & Lois Betts have had a home in Clayton Corners for 27 years and David Tewksbury has had his home abutting the Yale Farm property for 16 years. All of us are keenly disappointed to have reached this conclusion. We all love the Berkshires. The permitting process is not without scars and strained friendships but the economy dictates that is time to turn the page."
Let us hope that the next chapter can include a solution that works for the owners of this property to meet their needs and is consistant with conserving its primary conservation values. I am certain there is bitter disappointment, and not a little anger and frustration with the conservation community, but if the economy was the true rationalle for wirthdrawing the project, then perhaps another serious conservation proposal, regardless of who may be backing it, can be treated as business, rather than personal.