Watertown’s Ives Hill golf course will not open this summer

Watertown’s Ives Hill golf course will not open this summer
The golf course at Ives Hill County Club in Watertown will not be opening this year and it’s unclear if the restaurant will reopen.

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The golf course at Ives Hill County Club in Watertown will not be opening this year and it’s unclear if the restaurant will reopen.

The owner, P.J. Simao, emailed a letter to the news media Friday afternoon saying it “wouldn’t be prudent to open the golf course this year under the present circumstances and business climate.”

Refunds will be sent to the people who have paid for the 2020 season, he said.

In his letter, Simao discusses his legal battle with the city and the Watertown Golf Club, saying the litigation "hasn't been a pleasant experience."

He again says Ives Hill Country Club is a target of Mayor Jeff Smith after an April 7 email that Simao says threatened his business when it questioned Ives Hill being open during the winter months.

We’ve reached out to the city and the mayor for comment. We’ll update this story if we hear from them.

Simao also said he hasn’t made a decision on whether to reopen the restaurant.

The following is Simao’s full letter:

Good afternoon. After very careful thought and deliberation I have come to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be prudent to open the golf course There is no way any of us could have anticipated the events of this year. As you may know, my mother passed away on Feb. 25th and that has truly changed my thought process and priorities. I tried to prolong my decision so as not to make it based on emotions and I apologize to anyone who thinks I waited too long.

When I purchased Ives Hill Country Club (IHCC) in 2007, I was trying to just save it for the community and provide an inviting place for all to enjoy. My dedicated and loyal staff has done a great job throughout the years in accomplishing that task. In 2007, I said I would operate IHCC for 2 to 3 years and then reevaluate. I have now operated it for 13 seasons. I have certainly made some mistakes along the way and I most definitely wish I could take a few mulligans with some of them.

As you probably know IHCC has been in litigation with the City of Watertown (City) and Watertown Golf Club Inc. (WGC) for over a year and a half which hasn’t been a pleasant experience. I am still waiting on a court decision on the appeal. It has been a very expensive and time-consuming process, but I felt it had to be done to attempt to right the wrong that the City has been perpetrating against IHCC for many years. I don’t regret it at all, and I am very proud of the fact that I was able to bring to the public’s attention the City’s unfair practices.

As a result, I believe IHCC is now a target of the present Mayor demonstrated by the fact that he threatened IHCC in a April 7, 2020 email about IHCC’s operation during the winter months. That threat was in the first month of the pandemic and I was forced to deal with it during these most difficult times. Both the Mayor and the City Attorney blamed it on a letter that was sent to the City by the WGC’s Attorney, Mr. James Heary complaining about our winter operations but to date they haven’t produced the letter.

The City has been subsidizing the WGC through well below market rents, below market taxes and free use of properties for many years to the disadvantage of IHCC and the City taxpayers. It is my very strong opinion that if the City wasn’t subsidizing the WGC, the WGC would have been out of business a long time ago. The City has even been vigorously defending the lawsuit at a great cost and expense to the taxpayers for the benefit of the WGC. The City didn’t have to spend the amount of funds it has on the defense. The City could’ have simply just had the WGC defend the action and pay for the legal defense with its’ own funds. This was an example of their blatant disregard for fairness.

The City continues to allow the WGC to use City properties free of charge while not making the public aware of their actions. The City approved plans for WGC on April 6, 2020 which was within weeks of the onset of the Pandemic and didn’t allow the public to participate. The Council then gave the WGC over a year to complete the plans despite the fact that WGC didn’t abide by the written Agreement they made with the City last year. That was another example of their blatant disregard for fairness.

The approvals given to the WGC weren’t essential business, but the Mayor went ahead and gave the WGC another unfair advantage. This was simply wrong. I believe the timing and absence of a public comment period was meant to eliminate IHCC from the public discussion. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not afraid of competition and I actually thrive on it, but this was a no-win situation for IHCC right from the beginning as I found out during the litigation.

In closing, I haven’t made any final decisions concerning the reopening of the restaurant this year or the golf course next year but when I do, I will let you know. I sincerely thank all of you for your support over the last 13 years and I am hopeful you will understand this most difficult decision. Refunds will be sent to the people who have paid for the 2020 season.

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