WINDHAM — The state owns 29 acres of land, home to a nine-hole golf course and driving range. But it doesn’t want it and neither does the town.
Officials sent formal notice to the state yesterday, turning down the chance to purchase the Applewood golf course property on Range Road.
The town’s refusal means the state likely will put the property off Range Road near the Interstate 93 and Route 111 interchange up for sale.
It looks like the last round of golf is upcoming this season for the 20-year-old course developed and designed by former Selectman Peter Chulack.
None of the town departments or boards had an interest in the property.
“We feel it is best to keep it on the open market and generate taxes,” Town Administrator David Sullivan said.
The property is in a prime commercial area of town and could be converted to other uses by a developer.
The state offered the golf course and driving range to the town for about $3 million, Sullivan said.
Applewood opened in 1992. It is a 2,954-yard, par-27 executive course. The driving range preceded it by three years.
Now, it’s all about to vanish.
“We’ll just take everything out of here that’s here,” Chulack said. “We’ll just plow the greens under.”
Sullivan said the state Department of Transportation has owned the property for several years.
The state acquired it for use as a staging area for the Route 111 bypass project, he said. The state only wanted a small portion of the property, but the former owner negotiated a better deal, sale of the whole parcel, Chulack said.
“They paid $3.4 million,” he said.
The state leases the property to the Chulack family, operators of the golf course and the Heavy Hitters driving range. The state pays the property taxes.
Chulack said the state has only been willing to negotiate year-to-year leases. He had a long-term lease with the former owner.
The short-term arrangement makes investing in the course impractical, he said.
“You cannot make any investment, so it’s deteriorated,” Chulack said.
Still, it remains popular. On Monday, about 50 students from a golf camp played the course. Yesterday, there were 30 seniors from the Ingram Senior Center in Salem. Chulack estimated 200 women play in leagues there.
Busy professionals like it, too.
“It will take you an hour, at most an hour and a half, to play,” Chulack said. “These are good par-3s. This is not a pitch-and-putt. The average hole is 150 yards. The longest is 180, the shortest 120. We’re just going to close it up, liquidate and the state will leave it fallow.”
A DOT official said the town had requested the state declare the land surplus so it could be sold.
“The town has a right of refusal to purchase the property once it is declared surplus before it is placed on the market for sale,” said Peter Stamnas, project coordinator for the I-93 widening project. “Other state agencies also have a right of refusal. If they also decline, it will be marketed for sale.” Zoning on the parcel is mixed, Chulack said, with office and light industrial for the front, residential for the back.
Chulack concedes the town could see more tax dollars if a developer comes along and puts something on the land. But he maintains the town would lose tax dollars if the state still owns the land without a tenant. The golf course is the only one hosted by the Department of Transportation.
The state parks division doesn’t have any courses.
The Pease Development Authority, an independent, self-funded agency within state government, operates a 27-hole golf course on the seacoast.