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NMH tries to make golf course an easier sell

Recorder file/Paul Franz
The clubhouse sits on the property of the Northfield Mount Hermon School golf course, which the school is hoping to sell. The latest idea would remove the wetlands section of the property that had been packaged for sale with the course in the hopes to make it more marketable.

Recorder file/Paul Franz The clubhouse sits on the property of the Northfield Mount Hermon School golf course, which the school is hoping to sell. The latest idea would remove the wetlands section of the property that had been packaged for sale with the course in the hopes to make it more marketable.

NORTHFIELD — To make its for-sale golf course more marketable, Northfield Mount Hermon School may separate it from the wetlands it’s been packaged with.

The move could make it an easier sale to parties interested in operating the nine-hole golf course, and help a local group looking to preserve the wetlands. The properties went on the market together in early March for $1.25 million.

The school had been adamant about selling both properties as a package, but has reconsidered after a few months on the market. The lots are not being individually listed, but the school will consider offers on the golf course alone, according to D. William Pratt, the real estate agent handling the sale.

An unofficial citizens’ group, the Northfield Land Coop, formed shortly after the property went on the market, initially with the idea to raise enough money to buy it outright. Upon further examination, the group switched its efforts to protecting open space and wetlands on the lot.

Pratt has told prospective buyers about the group and its vision, but, until recently, the school said any division of the lots could be done after the sale of the entire property.

The course itself covers about 52 acres of the 154-acre package for sale by NMH. The lot on which the course sits also includes a pool and pool house, as well as four homes. Two of those homes are rented to NMH faculty, and the school has expressed interest in leasing them from a future owner.

The golf course’s clubhouse and an open field both sit on the approximate 90-acre wetland lot, and both could be of interest to those who want to run the golf course, necessitating a survey to adjust its boundaries.

“Those properties are pretty valuable to the course,” said Pratt. If they were to be taken out of the wetlands parcel, the land would need to be surveyed. Pratt said there has been some discussion about whether NMH or the buyer would take on that cost, but a decision had not been made.

The Northfield Recreation Commission has been interested in the open field, as a future site for softball fields and a community park.

While the course and wetlands remained bundled, the best NMH could tell those looking at the golf course was that there was the possibility that the town, an independent cooperative or a land conservation trust would buy it later.

The separation also gives those groups more time to put together plans and funding to acquire the wetlands. This would allow them to apply for grants as they’re available, and give the town time to properly assess the idea, come up with a plan, and hold a town meeting to approve already-reserved community preservation funds or other money for the project.

The community preservation account is funded by a surcharge on the town’s property tax, and allowable uses include historic preservation, open space protection, and affordable housing.

Members of the coop are confident that the town’s Community Preservation Committee would back the project. The conservation group the Mount Grace Land Trust has expressed interest in the project as well.

Community preservation money requires the approval of an annual or special town meeting.

Coop members will bring their plans before the Selectboard, to seek its support and guidance going forward, and see what other information the town’s executive body needs to make a decision.

Prospective buyers

Most of those who have seriously inquired about the property have been interested in the golf course, but didn’t want to take on an un-developable wetland, said Pratt.

“There is still some interest in the whole property,” said Pratt. A group of investors, he said, has considered buying the property with the intent of subdividing it into buildable lots.

“It’s quite a reach; there isn’t a market for building lots right now,” he said.

However, said Pratt, that could change if and when a permanent owner is found for the 217-acre former NMH campus nearby. Some possible uses for the campus, a school or college, for instance, could spur housing and commercial development in town and increase demand for property.

Though subdivision and development is a possibility, most making serious inquiries on the property want to maintain its use as a golf course, said Pratt.

These include one local group that’s “seriously interested,” and two others, from Denver, Colo., and New York City, though he wasn’t at liberty to name any of the suitors.

Snow and Sons Landscaping Co., of Greenfield, currently runs and maintains the golf course. Owner Edward Snow Jr. said previously that the company was “exploring all options” for the property, but would not say whether he was in talks for a possible purchase.

The Denver group is scheduled to come out next week to take a “hard look” at the course, said Pratt.

“The group from New York City was very interested in converting the Dickinson House (an old Victorian on the lot) into a clubhouse,” said Pratt. “They’ve got some great ideas, but lately they’ve been kind of lukewarm about the property.”

Pratt said he hopes to have more developments on the property by the end of the month.

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