WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Watertown City Council may allow a controversial part of Thompson Park near the golf course to be used for public parking again. It has the owner of a competing city golf course wondering if this was the plan all along.
It's only 1 acre of land in Thompson Park, but it has been the subject of a big controversy.
For years, this public land has been used as a place for golfers to park, when Watertown Golf Club's own parking lot got full. P.J. Simao contends that's not proper use of official park land.
Simao has said if Watertown turned a blind eye to his complaint, the city was subsidizing the Watertown Golf Club's business and hurting his business at Ives Hill Country Club.
"I don't think the city wasn't to publicly admit what's been happening all these years. There should be adequate parking on Watertown Golf Club property to support their parking needs," said Simao.
In 2019, city council officially deemed the area 'public parking,' but rescinded that in December.
That prompted Watertown Golf Club majority shareholder Mike Lundy to build a new 50-space parking lot on golf club property this past spring for golfers.
But Lundy tells us non-golfers use his lot but that doesn't bother him. Lundy says let people park where they want to park - and enjoy Thompson Park.
But that doesn't end the controversy with this acre of land. Monday night Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith asked for city hall to draft a resolution.
"Mayor Smith has asked us to prepare an ordinance that would allow for parking in that area of the park," said City Manager Ken Mix.
That would make the land again a public parking area.
Simao sticks to his objection, saying the lot is optimal for golfers, not for the general public who will visit the zoo, the pool or other events in Thompson Park.
"It happens to be in the exact location where the WGC has been using that land for all these years. It's an insult to people's intelligence to think that people are going to believe that," said Simao.
Simao contends Lundy's new lot falls short of what the golf club actually needs for parking and believes this was the plan all along.
In a July 21 letter to the city, Simao asks, "Was the deal all along that the City wouldn't make them build a parking lot large enough to handle their required parking and that the City would construct a parking lot for them and disguise it as public parking?"
"This is a private business that should have to deal with their own problems with their own resources and stop asking the city to bail them out all the time," said Simao.
"The city is not building any parking lot at Thompson Park for any specific business," said Mayor Smith.
Ives Hill didn’t open this season - in part, Simao says, due to these city decisions and because of the pandemic.
“I have a hard time believing that the public parking next to the park clubhouse is the reason for Ives’ demise,” said Lundy.