By Amanda Wyatt
With golf season on the horizon, the Poxabogue Golf Center — one of the few public courses on the South Fork — is set to change hands.
After a few months of review by a special selection committee, the Southampton Town Board accepted a bid last week from Third Rock Management Company to manage and operate the course, which is co-owned by the Towns of Southampton and East Hampton. Third Rock, which is based in Riverhead, also runs the Suffolk County-owned Indian Island Golf Course.
According to Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi, who was an ex-officio member of the selection committee, the East End towns had been paying a fee each month to Long Island Golf Management, the course’s previous management company.
“I’d say the most significant difference in the new contract no matter who it is that’s chosen — and obviously it appears as if Third Rock is going to be the group that’s doing it — is the fact that there’s no longer any management fee; there’s not a cost to the town to subsidize the operation,” he said.
During the selection process, Nuzzi said, “We asked any proposers to give us a revenue structure and an estimate of cost of operations so that the town moving forward could not have to expend what are significant amounts of money in the operation and maintenance of the course, in addition to a management fee agreement.”
Ultimately, Nuzzi said, the agreement should save taxpayers money.
“The revenue estimates are somewhat conservative coming back to the town, but on the other hand, several hundred thousand dollars a year that it would cost in a management agreement and in fees for operations and management will be saved,” he said.
Nuzzi noted that the “well-loved” Fairview Restaurant, which is located on site, would continue to run as a separate operation under Third Rock’s management.
At the same time, Southampton Town has also been seeking to buy East Hampton Town’s share of the golf course.
In an interview, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele pointed out that local governments cannot sell parkland in the State of New York without an act of the legislature.
“The courts have found that the ownership of parkland is under the public trust doctrine and therefore whenever a municipality — in this case, East Hampton is selling its share to Southampton — it requires an act of the legislature,” he said.
While a bill was passed in the state legislature last year, there was an error in the description of the property that the towns provided, Thiele explained.
“So we’ve had to seek an amendment to the bill we passed last year to provide the correct property description, and that’s what we’re in the process of doing now,” he said.
Thiele said that a state legislature cannot pass a bill until it has received what are called “home rule messages” from the affected local governments. As he understood it, the legislature had just received the messages from both East End towns last week.
“I’m hopeful at the next Local Governments Committee meeting we’ll have this bill on its agenda,” he said. “…I would be hopeful that we would be able to get them their amended bill adopted and signed into law certainly sometime in the next two months.”
And as part of the state legislation, Thiele added, East Hampton will have to acquire additional parkland in order to replace the portion of Poxabogue they are selling.
“Irrespective of what happens with the possible transfer of East Hampton’s 50 percent to Southampton, we still need to ensure that a management company is in place,” Nuzzi said.
“And time is of the essence here, because we’re hoping for a nice early spring, and by April 1 — if not March — hopefully people will be out on that course, so we need to give the management company appropriate time to situate themselves there.”
“We wanted to ensure that the transition is seamless. We think it will be a good fit,” Nuzzi added. “[Poxabogue] is a great course. It’s loved by the community. It’s the only, public, municipally owned court in the Town of Southampton and a great asset to the community.”