Watertown’s city council backtracks on golf club parking decision

Watertown Golf Club parking

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Watertown lawmakers are overturning their temporary fix for a parking problem at Thompson Park between the city and the Watertown Golf Club.

Back in June, Watertown lawmakers decided to make the club’s overflow parking area in Thompson Park a public lot. The decision came after it was found some of the club’s parking spaces spilled onto city-owned parkland.

At a meeting Monday night, three city council members overturned June’s decision..

"We were trying to solve a problem on the fly, so we decided to designate a public parking area where people have been parking on the grass," council member Ryan Henry-Wilkinson said.

“I think in June the decision to place a public parking sign was done at haste and with some possibly faulty legal advice,” council member Cody Horbacz said, “so until we can get this cleared up, I think it is appropriate to rescind the parking designation.”

City attorney Bob Slye fired back at Horbacz's comment, defending his legal advice to make the lot public.

"When everybody was talking about which developer was going to sue us first, I was sitting here thinking how can I avoid the city getting sued at all and I did and it worked, and you haven't been sued," Slye said. "So it was pretty darn good legal advice at the time."

Mayor Joe Butler says the council should have talked about the resolution before it appeared on Monday's agenda two hours before the meeting.

"We talk about open government, transparency, doing things out in the open," he said. "This is behind my back, the councilwomen's back, behind staff's back -- this is not how you do business, ladies and gentleman. It's unethical, it's wrong. I don't necessarily agree with the agenda here."

Mike Lundy, who's majority shareholder of the Watertown Golf Club, had agreed to pay for a 70-space gravel lot next to the club which would be public.

Later, it was found the city would have to review the project under the State Environmental Quality Review Act before a public hearing could be held on the matter.

In a letter to city manger Rick Finn, Lundy reminded the city he was still willing to pay for the public lot or the club could build a private lot on its own land.

Horbacz and Henry-Wilkinson say they think the lot should be built on club land.

"We have this letter in front us saying they would be happy to put a parking lot on their own land and they are able to do that," Henry-Wilkinson said.

“The golf club does have room on their own property,” Horbacz said. “This is not a need, this is a want. The city doesn’t need a parking lot in this area, this is not a need for the city.”

Council members say the public parking signs in the lot will be taken down and the area won't be plowed in the winter.

As far as other golf club encroachments into the park, Lundy says everything has been resolved, except removing a septic tank and a water pump.

In other action Monday night, the city council approved the city's strategic plan.

In it, city officials map out priorities for Watertown going forward.

A public hearing on the plan was held in October.

Some of the goals focus on pride in city appearance as well as better branding and marketing to attract new businesses and residents.

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