NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. — The Indian Meadows Golf Club, located on 275 Turnpike Rd., Westborough, may be sold and rebuilt into a baseball facility, according to a purchase and sale agreement filed with the town of Northborough last week.
The 50-year-old, nine-hole golf course occupies approximately 60 acres of land in Northborough, though its entrance is located in Westborough. New England Baseball Enterprises, LLC, has expressed interest in purchasing the property for $1.9 million and converting the course into "a competitive baseball facility consisting of four baseball diamonds," according to a May 24 letter to the Board of Selectmen.
The letter adds that the facility would operate tournaments and become the new home of the New England Ruffnecks, a non-profit baseball development program for children between 13-18. According to their website, the Ruffnecks help student athletes reach their goal of playing college baseball by "providing devoted coaches and playing against the best competition in the country."
Arthur Billingham, the head professional and superintendent at Indian Meadows, led the team of investors that purchased and redesigned the course in 1990. He said that a changing business environment has motivated him to consider a sale.
"The golf business isn't what it used to be," he said. "It's been steadily going down for 10 years."
But Billingham added that the sale is far from a sure thing, and that many obstacles stand in the way.
The property in Northborough, which contains the course itself, is classified as recreational land under Chapter 61B of Massachusetts General Law, allowing Indian Meadows to claim a significant tax break. The law also gives Northborough the "right of first refusal" to acquire the property—in other words, the town may step in and purchase the land at fair market value.
Northborough Town Planner Kathy Joubert said that the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Assessors, the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission have all been notified, as the law requires. In addition, Joubert said that the Open Space Committee and the Recreation Department have also been asked for their input.
So far, Joubert said that the Recreation Department is not interested in the land at the moment.
Meanwhile, the Open Space Committee unanimously voted on Monday to recommend that the Board of Selectmen study this opportunity and, if feasible, pursue it. This decision came after several abutters of Indian Meadows told the committee that they felt quality of life would be at risk if New England Baseball renovated the land.
Some neighbors wondered how active the property would become. Of particular concern was the noise that could emanate from late-night baseball games, as well as the glare from the planned 80-foot light posts above the diamonds.
Committee members seemed sympathetic to the neighbors' position. "I have to imagine that these guys weren't going to be paying this much money if they weren't planning on filling it up," Committee Chairman John Campbell said.
Several committee members also seemed reluctant to miss an opportunity for more open space, acknowledging that the town is rapidly developing.
"We have to look beyond out own tenures in town," Campbell said.
Ultimately, the Board of Selectmen has final say on the matter. They are scheduled to discuss the issue at their June 25 meeting and, as of May 29, have 120 to make a decision, according to the law.
Even if Northborough declines the property, the matter of the land's tax status remains in question. New England Baseball argued that the land will continue to be used recreationally, and thus ought to keep its Chapter 61B classification. But Joubert said Monday that her recent conversations with the Massachusetts Department of Revenue seemed to indicate that the proposed facility would not count. She added, however, that she has not yet received a formal written ruling.
If the new development does not qualify under Chapter 61B, New England Baseball will have to pay significant back taxes if it still wishes to purchase the land, Joubert said. This has the potential to alter the terms of the deal, or end it all together.
As negotiations continue, Billingham, who added that many buyers have sought Indian Meadows in the past, said that the golf club will continue to operate as if nothing is happening.