OTHER VOICES

One new motel

Posted May 23, 2012, at 4:32 p.m.

The Martindale Hotel & Golf Club has a nice ring to it.

The 18-hole golf course alongside the Little Androscoggin River, established in 1921, is a challenging course with expansive views of the Twin Cities. A hotel could offer upscale accommodations and dining, plus space for corporate meetings, weddings and other events.

Does that sound like a destination that could potentially draw visitors to the Androscoggin River Valley, much like visitors flock to similar hotel and golf club resorts across the country?

It does.

Too bad it’s not to be.

On Monday, the Auburn City Council quashed any hope that Martindale Country Club owners Jim Day and Nick Glicos might have to discuss building a hotel on their property as part of a city-wide ordinance that would have created a process for recreation areas — like Martindale and Lost Valley — to create plans for hotels and restaurants on their properties.

By a vote of 5-2, councilors permanently tabled further discussion.

It was a shortsighted vote based on emotion, not on fact.

It is not a stretch to say that Day and Glicos preserved Martindale when, in 2009, the then-private course’s board of directors was unable to meet expenses and had to sell.

The duo has done a lot to improve the course and keep it open, including opening up play to nonmembers.

Martindale’s residential neighbors who oppose Day’s desire to discuss a potential hotel project say he is threatening them with the idea that, if not a golf course, the only other option would be housing.

That’s not a threat. It’s the truth.

When the former Martindale board decided to sell, it sent out six packets to potential buyers: Day and Glicos were the only ones intent on preserving the land as a golf course. The others all proposed turning it into tracts of housing.

Under city ordinance, the 200-acre golf course could be converted into a residential “Martindale Acres,” with as many as 200 homes sprinkled across the property.

Those homes would require city-financed water and sewer lines, regular taxpayer-funded trash pickup, and the public education of the children living in the Acres, among other things. And, then, think of the traffic that would be generated by so many two-car families zipping up and down Beech Hill Road.

Martindale Country Club is one of the Twin Cities’ gems, but the fact is that the best and highest use of the land — at least from the current owners’ financial perspective — is housing.

By its vote Monday stifling discussion on potential resort or recreational expansion at Martindale and elsewhere in the city, councilors rejected the very real potential to create jobs and draw new visitors to Auburn.

Rejecting that idea invites the reality of 200 new homes and the associated public expense that entails, never mind the loss of a historic golf course that enhances this community.

Talk about a threat.

We urge the City Council to reopen discussion, put aside emotion and look at the facts here.

Maybe a hotel on the fringe of the golf course doesn’t make sense, but councilors owe citizens the courtesy of genuine discussion of an ordinance that could best govern these kinds of projects. An ordinance that, if well-crafted, could make Auburn a richer, more vibrant community.

Sun Journal, Lewiston (May 23)

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