Oak Hills Driving Range Proposal Draws Praise, Critics

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Anita O'Brien gives a presentation Wednesday of old plans for a driving range at Oak Hills golf course in Norwalk.
Anita O'Brien gives a presentation Wednesday of old plans for a driving range at Oak Hills golf course in Norwalk. Photo Credit: Alfred Branch

NORWALK, Conn. – If Norwalk’s Oak Hills golf course is ever going to thrive, it needs a driving range to help generate much needed operating revenue, proponents say. But critics believe a driving range on what’s left of the park’s natural setting would be another financial boondoggle that would ruin the environment forever.

Believers of both opinions turned out in force at a public hearing Wednesday night in the Community Room in City Hall to hash out the future of the proposal before the Oak Hills Park Authority. The authority, which has debated – on and off – whether to build a driving range for well over a decade, is in the midst of creating a request for proposal (RFP) document for the range.  

Of the nearly two dozen people who spoke during Wednesday’s hearing, a little more than half said they supported the plan, which tentatively calls for a developer to build the range on between 200 to 280 yards of land near the park’s currently vacant restaurant.

“It’s inconvenient to have to get in the car and drive 20 minutes to Ridgefield or Stamford to practice your game,” said Norwalk High School golf coach Ray Kodel, referring to public driving ranges in those two communities. Kodel and others said that a driving range would allow children and other newcomers to golf to learn how to play and become future customers of the course.

“In other towns, they want the best for their kids and that’s what I want here in Norwalk,” Kodel said.

Anita O’Brien, whose Greenwich-based firm, AOB Studio, studied building a range at Oak Hills more than 12 years ago, said the authority could seek Audubon certification for the park and driving range, which could be a benefit in marketing the facility.

“I was excited about this project because it was environmentally sensitive and a great asset to the city,” O’Brien said.

Former Common Council member Bill Krummel, who opposes the range, said the authority’s draft RFP was not specific enough to help the city avoid problems.
“There are too many cases of developers starting projects, leaving holes in the ground and then coming back looking for more money,” Krummel said. “And park land, once it’s destroyed, is not retrievable.”

Paul Cantor, a West Norwalk resident and vocal critic of the range, agreed and said he is skeptical the driving range could adequately help cover the golf course’s overall spending. “Recently, due to a drop in demand for rounds or mismanagement or both, the golf course has been operating in the red.”

However, Nick Pisano said that when the authority looked into a range several years ago, it discovered that Stamford’s Sterling Farms range generates about $800,000 per year, and Norwalk’s range was estimated to make at least half that much if not about $600,000.

Authority member Bob Virgulak said the group is planning to hold another meeting on Feb. 26 for more discussion on the RFP.

“We’re going to address the concerns of both sides,” he said following the conclusion of the two-hour public hearing. “The environmental concerns are important to all of us.”

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Comments (6)


I have no idea if this is correct but by the looks of it Norwalk has one the Stamford one isn't on this maybe this list is old

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Far as the golf course it should be a simple cost analysis & its done. Either its a burden on us or it isnt, if it is its a no brainer. Why dump money into a losing proposition.
I'm surprised we need new cop cars though. It would appear, given the number of them on dirt jobs every day, that we have a dozen or so more than we need. I dont think an officer working overtime directing traffic needs a cruiser. If they took their own cars to the overtime we could save a ton on fuel alone, and have all those cars ready if we needed them. They last longer & get less damaged sitting in the lot than running all day at idle on construction sites.

Excellent idea. Why would an overtime police person need a police car if they are simply directing traffic at a construction site or at road work? Now, if only the implementation of your idea would follow something odd would happen: the City would save money with a good idea.

I agree with the data Ken

as far as the cruisers this is in the hands of council members one would have to assume they know the numbers they know whats going on and know when told by the Mayor to act they will.This isn't what they were voted into office for to get instruction from the Mayor,they are suppose to be working for the taxpayers no matter what the subject is.

I realize how you feel about the dirt jobs but they have a new president for the police union that is another story.

My thought is lets make sure what we have on the road is relaible and safe.We all here from experts out here from time to time defending city hall shame they never took the time to think some things thru.

This golf money seems a little short anyways if they are failing so much.To have the city officials think its ok to lend them some $$ are not ones we need running the show much longer ,are all the bills on the table and all the budgets for all depts in,pushing this thru at warp speed while ignoring and insulting taxpayers is not what a city does when things are on the up and up.

The fact some of these people are appointed and not elected have their hands on our money needs to be looked at,some don't even live in Norwalk or pay taxes seems a little unfair to those under foreclosure to be told its going to cost more money this year so handful of others can golf.The new facility on RT 7 is done yet the weather has prevented them from opening its a new driving range and pro shop I'm sure they will compete for members the place is state of the art and not once has anything been said about the 25 minutes it takes to get there.They have been there for years well established so having that facility mentiuoned in all of this should of been done.

Its fact we all heard from those handful who wanted a ice rink and were told no,so someone came in and built one,is there anything that prevents yet another person to come in and build a range somewhere else and charge less?Those members are all telling us there is a need no one else could fill that void somewhere else?That would be justice for those who think they have the only plan to see a private developer build one nearby.

Just curious those in the picture of this article are they all Republican or is it mixed?

They seem to know how much money they will make if we give them any more money why not enjoy the profit as well lets see a return each month on the profit this place makes and let them put their own houses down on the deal,they lose our money they lose their homes it seems only fair giving up our money for something we don't need as we let other things in the city go without.

Why hasn't Carvin protested this money going to the golf course? He sits in meetings in South Norwalk as if he cares about what happens to NEON and other vote generating gatherings with two faces?

Its time this is stopped in the council there should be no more considerations.

Police cruisers are needed in the city,how long is it going to be until the city is given the facts on what it needs to plan on our new tax hike?How many police cars has the city lost in the last month not including the one hit last night,its clearly not our officers fault they are hit and the cars have lived past their turn in date.You think the councilors could tell us how we are looking for safe cars for our officers.

This shell game each year around the budget needs some truth spread around there is no love anymore for our mayor.There is no faith among councilors who fail to follow the path after election its time for Norwalk to act upon those who sit and do nothing for the entire community.