Weston looking to buy Field Club
WESTON — After months of private negotiations, the Board of Selectmen announced Monday night, for the first time, that it hopes to buy the private Weston Field Club, Inc., and make it a town-run facility.
Toward that end, it authorized First Selectman Christopher Spaulding to sign a tentative purchase and sale agreement that will get the 29-acre property for an estimated $1.5 million, as well as approving a supplemental appropriation of up to $75,000 for a site analysis and appraisal of the property.
“We’ve been having discussions the past several months,” Spaulding said, in executive session, joined by representatives of the Board of Finance, Parks and Recreation Department and Commission, as well as land development and investment experts.
“We went through many, many years of the finances. ... We walked the site. We talked to the leadership,” he said, noting the real estate negotiations for the property couldn’t be made public, as it could impact costs.
Yet the town will potentially be buying it from the club — which Spaulding said is a 501(c)(7) nonprofit — for the cost of paying off its bond debt, prepaid memberships, outstanding liabilities and reasonable closing costs.
He said the land and facility, located at 38 Ladder Hill Road South, were valued around $7 million.
“At worst we are building a physical asset for pennies on the dollar. ... That’s a large parcel of land and anything can happen in the future,” he said.
“I’m glad that this is being pursued in principle,” said resident Arne de Keijzer, but he expressed his disappointment the $75,000 appropriation was being approved before the public had even had a chance to learn about the possible purchase.
“We’ve really had no chance to have input,” he said.
Spaulding defended the process, noting the finance board’s involvement and that public input was not done with every supplemental appropriation.
“We were duly elected to make some decisions too,” he said.
However, Spaulding said going forward the process would have “transparency,” with all documentation available on the town’s website and public meetings on the subject.
“This is a good-faith effort on our part,” Selectman Samantha Nestor said, adding it was a location beloved by the community. “If it is not financially viable, if it is not sort of going to be a winner in the end, we wouldn’t have started this process.”
“We’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes,” she said, but noted it still had to go before the Planning and Zoning Commission and would require a public vote.
“From this point on there are going to be, as you can imagine, a million hoops to jump through,” Spaulding said, including many decisions about programming once the deal is final.
The club, which operates with various membership plans, currently offers dining, swimming, racquet sports, shooting, and various camps and events.
Comparing the possibility to a facility like Longshore Club Park in Westport, as well as Waveny Park in New Canaan, board members extolled the possibilities of a project that would make the town more desirable.
“We want amenities,” Spaulding said. “We want things to keep people here.”
“I’m very excited about this opportunity,” Selectman Stephan Grozinger said. “If we fail to get the approvals that we need ... then we will have the ability to walk away having spent our due diligence money and nothing else.”