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Westminster

News Maryland Carroll County Westminster

Developer to donate Wakefield Valley Golf Course for property's water allocation

A developer has agreed to buy Wakefield Valley Golf Course and then donate the land and facilities to the city of Westminster, according to an announcement by the city last week.

Richard Kress is making the donation so he can build a 225-house development on the other side of town.

Kress is in the process of purchasing the golf course on Fenby Farm Road and has committed to donating the 160-acre property to the city of Westminster. The facilities on the property — including the clubhouse, banquet facility, outbuildings and the historic Durbin House — will be included in the donation, according to Westminster City Administrator Marge Wolf.

"This is the largest parcel of open green space remaining in the City of Westminster, and we are delighted that we will be able to preserve it at and plan its future," Westminster Mayor Kevin Utz said in a statement.

If the commitment between the city and the developer stands, golf at Wakefield Valley will be a thing of the past.

It will be some time before the city knows exactly how the property will be used, but Wolf said returning it to a golf course is not part of the discussion at this point.

"We have no firm plans for use of the facility at this time," Wolf said. "It would take a tremendous amount of money to make it a working golf course again.

"We're not going to rush into this," Wolf said. "We're going to look at a lot of options and figure out what is the best use for it."

Wakefield Valley Golf Club opened in the late 1970s and was bought by Hank Majewski in the early 1980s. Majewski was inducted into the PGA Middle Atlantic Hall of Fame in 2008. Under Majewski's ownership, Fenby's Restaurant at Wakefield Valley was opened; a conference facility was built; and nine holes were added, giving it three nine-hole courses.

Majewski closed the course in the fall of 2013 after years of financial struggles that, according to electronic court records, include federal and state tax liens.

Wolf said that over the years, the city has been in discussion with different parties interested in the Wakefield Valley property.

Some, she said, were interested in revitalizing the golf course while others were interested in the property and its facilities for other purposes.

Kress is the owner and developer of the Stonegate residential subdivision to be built on the former Naganna property in the area of Old Westminster Pike.

Wolf said the proposed development will include 225 homes.

Kress' plans to build the development have been delayed since 2002 by a Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) consent order limiting new water allocations, according to a City of Westminster news release.

For Kress, the purchase of Wakefield Valley Golf Course is all about the water.

The golf course comes with a well that is currently permitted by MDE to withdraw 85,000 gallons per day for golf course irrigation. Upon taking ownership of the property, Kress will request permission from the MDE to transfer the 85,000 GPD to the city for its general use. Getting that approval could take several months, Wolf said.

The agreement between Kress and the city stipulates that Kress will retain a water allocation necessary to move forward with the Stonegate project and the remaining water will be available for the city's water system, according to a news release.

Wolf said that the city has had similar arrangements in the past with builders and developers who wanted to build but were facing permit challenges due to water allocations. She cited Roops Mill, a historic grist mill complex that has been renovated at 1019 Taneytown Pike in Westminster, as an example.

"People have wells that are producing water so they get to take the amount out of the well for their development and in turn give the rest to the city," Wolf said.

Kress' attorney, Clark Shaffer, said that they are working with the current owner to reach an agreement before the property goes into foreclosure.

Shaffer said the parties are still negotiating the terms of the sale and would not release details.

However, he did say that he expects the process will be completed in the "near future."

"This transfer will take several months, and we'll start a lengthy planning process to ensure the best use of this beautiful land," Utz said, according to the release. "We will solicit public input along the way and welcome the thoughts and suggestions of the community."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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