A commercial real estate investor suggested Wakefield Valley Park be turned into a hotel and golf resort. However, city officials say it’s not possible.
Patrick D’Anthony, a New Windsor resident who grew up in Westminster and around golf, said his idea could bring in revenue and create jobs. His vision is to have an industrial stone-style hotel with rustic wood work centered at the top of the highest point in the park and a balcony in each room so residents can see the valley. He guessed the cost would be around $30 million.
“I know at first this is going to sound far-fetched, especially to the local folks,” he said.
His suggestion is much different than what other Westminster residents have pitched the city.
The recreation and parks department arranged three meetings to hear suggestions from the public about what Wakefield Valley Park should look like and what amenities it should have. The first meeting was held in December, the second meeting in late January. Some of the ideas included bike trails, pickleball courts, and a fishing pier.
The third meeting will be Wednesday, March 3 at the Carroll Arts Center, with sessions at 6 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. open to the public. Attendants must have RSVP’d ahead of time. The meeting will also be streamed on Facebook and can be found later on the city’s website. Abby Gruber, director of Westminster’s recreation and parks department, said it will present the final version of the park.
Wakefield Valley was the site of a golf course for some 35 years before it went out of business. The property was acquired by Westminster in February 2016. It has been part of the city’s adopted strategic plan that identifies priority projects to work on through 2018 to 2021. The master plan of the park will provide a foundation for future city grant applications to finance park improvements.
“For what this property used to be, it really should be, I believe,” D’Anthony said.
He said he envisions a main driveway, vistas, two-tier terraces and a pool with an infinity edge overlooking the pond and golf course. The resort would be energy sufficient, have a spa, restaurant and rooftop bar. He said he’s planning to create a video that explains his ideas.
Gruber said in an email turning Wakefield back to a golf resort is “not a viable option at this time.” Two ideas for golf courses were submitted for the first meeting, she said, and both individuals who subimitted the ideas were told that Wakefield will be preserved for open space “for the benefit and enjoyment of the community.”
“When a governmental entity dedicates open space and park land they try to identify uses that serve the greatest good and represent equity in parks and recreation services,” she said. “Generally, a golf course is not something that usually falls into that category.”
Gruber also said the Land and Water Conservation Fund grant that will pay for the park includes an agreement that states the site receiving assistance is “to be opened, operated, and maintained in perpetuity for public outdoor recreation use.”
D’Anthony said the problem with the park idea is the cost of maintenance for facilities, and the lack of revenue coming in to maintain it. He also mentioned that if ball fields are implemented, stadium lights could come next and “the neighbors are going to hate that.” He said the golf course resort would generate revenue, provide jobs, boost property value for the nearby homes and bring a lot of people to Westminster.
The former professional golfer and caddie said he’s an outdoors person and visits park, but a lot more people visit golf courses. He added there are other parks around that could be utilized more. He also said the BMW Championship is being held at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills this August, where he used to work, and could be an opportunity to market the idea to those who attend.
“Business jets, private jets, corporate jets, will be flying into Westminster,” he said, adding that attendees could choose to stay in the area. “A lot of them will look down on this property.”
Ann Gilbert, Westminster council member, said she had not heard of an idea like this and was not sure if the city is in a position to run a golf course. She said she’s excited for Wednesday evening’s meeting and to keep the park natural.
“I think the community likes the walking trails. Somewhere people can go to take it easy,” she said, adding that she looks forward to the development of a “nice quiet area.”
Kevin Dayhoff, fellow council member, said he’s open to all feedback and suggestions, but his predisposition is to keep the park as an open space.
“And I believe that is consistent with many of my constituents,” he said.
Dayhoff said later in an email the city formed the Wakefield Valley Task Force to “investigate options for partnerships, long term leases and other proposed uses of the former Wakefield Valley Golf Course.” He added the group was open to proposal submissions, and it was later decided to preserve the space for public enjoyment.
D’Anthony, who moved back to the county about a year ago after traveling for golf, said it’s possible to have both the golf resort and public park.
“There are little sections where you can carve off parts of the corners for park space,” he said, However, he said he’d prefer using the entire park for the resort.