I have been a member at Winnapaug since 2009 and have frequently played there since 1975. I have been an interested observer of the debate about the Winnapaug development and the resistance by abutters to any changes in the current conditions. I believe that the concerned abutters are not considering the relevant facts in the situation.
1. The proposed developer is a local Westerly family, committed to keeping the property as a public golf course. Ownership has worked for over two years with Town of Westerly during this process. There have been several meetings with the Westerly Land Trust to explore ways to work together to ensure that the property will always have a viable golf course no matter who owns it.
2. This property has suffered from several years of neglect from previous management and a substantial capital investment is needed to return the property to the condition it deserves. The limited development of available areas on the property will finance the improvements and contribute to maintaining the course in top condition. Mr. Scola is there every day at dawn supervising the work and making sure that his vision for the course is being executed. He has already invested significant resources in 2020 making improvements to sprinklers, removing trees, fertilizing and seeding. Funds have been spent on several new pieces of equipment. Experienced staff has been added for mowing and sprinkler work. At this point the course looks terrific. If development of the course area was planned, why would he be putting this effort and making this investment?
3. Since taking charge, Mr. Scola has been a very accommodating neighbor, allowing neighbors to use the property for walking their pets, enjoying the solitude and getting exercise in a safe environment. He has also responded to requests from several neighbors to remove trees, giving them better views of the shore. His reward for this courtesy has been massive public criticism. He has also been rudely confronted on his own property on several occasions by angry abutters.
4. The review process is underway. Plans have been presented to planning and zoning. We should allow our elected and appointed officials do the jobs they were hired to do, following the procedures and laws that exist for this purpose. There will be ample opportunity in that process for concerns to be heard and addressed.
5. The alternative to allowing limited development by a local resident is that the property could be sold to an outside developer with the resources to close the course and patiently push for total development of all the property, including residential, commercial and possibly industrial, since it already abuts industrial property. This would be a tragic result. If this is what occurs, it won’t be “green” for very long.