The City of White Plains should buy the Ridgeway Golf Club if the numbers can be worked out

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October 7, 2010
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October 20, 2010

Over the past week,  I have been weighing the pro and con arguments of the city of White Plains purchasing the Ridgeway Golf Club.  My first reaction to the possibility of the golf course being purchased by the city was that of relief.  I grew up in Gedney Farms.  Both my parents and grandparents owned homes facing the Ridgeway Golf Course.   I played on that golf course at night.  I climbed the apple tree in our back yard and watched the golfers from that vantage point.  So I have hesitated in offering an opinion.  Was nostalgia for a lifestyle whose time has passed clouding my judgment?

How can the city justify spending that kind of money during a  fiscal crisis?

One of my problems was endorsing such a massive purchase which would increase debt while taking a large parcel off of the tax rolls.  White Plains is in a fiscal crisis.  A few months ago I actually wrote about how necessary the drastic cutbacks the city was enacting were for maintaining property values. At the time, I wrote that keeping the tax burden down for home owners was essential for stabilizing housing prices and I still hold to that. How does that square with deliberately taking a large property off the tax rolls and going into a hole to purchase it?

Wetlands, Wet Basements and Flooding

White Plains was known as “the land of white mist” by the Indians.  The white mists were caused by marshes.  White Plains is in fact largely wetlands.  That is why our water table is so high.   Another fact is that much of the Ridgeway Golf Course is built on low lands and a major portion of said course is unbuildable – hence the low price.

Residents on the south end of the city have felt the effects of over building for years now.  A new development comes in. The EIS says it should have “no impact” on the neighboring areas…and suddenly everyone who had dry basements for decades has a water problem.   The fact is that water has to go somewhere – and when land is paved over – water works its way around the situation – it doesn’t just “go away.”

Towns downstream of us have also pointed  a finger at  the White Plains building spree to account for some of their own flooding issues  and not without reason.  Flooding has increased dramatically in Mamaroneck in recent years.   Need anyone be reminded that FEMA was in the town of Mamaroneck for months in 2007 following a major storm?  If major development coincided  with increased flooding – friendly neighbors might even turn litigious.

Since we have reached a tipping point with respect to water tables in our area – development of such a large tract of land  known to be sitting on a vein of the Mamaroneck River may be very detrimental to our own and surrounding communities.  Trouble is – we wont know until its too late to turn back.

Gedney Farms White Plains NY Ridgeway view from Robinhood

You can’t leave Burke and Presbyterian Hospital out of this equation

We also have to look ahead   Two very large nearby tracts of land remain undeveloped.  When the economy turns – and it will eventually – there will be more pressure to sell off these large parcels to developers.  The cumulative effect of all three parcels being developed could have a serious impact on anyone living near or downstream of them.

The affordability factor

It is a cruel irony that most real estate “bargains”  become available when few are in the financial position to afford it.  A recession brings opportunity for those who have the funds and the guts.  I have been telling my buyers for months now that if they qualify for loans  this is a marvelous opportunity.  Most have been sitting on their hands waiting to get even “more” which at this point is truly tempting fate.

One reason I can argue that the purchase makes inherent sense is that given low interest rates and a major price adjustment –  land and homes are more affordable now than they have been in over 10 years.   In our area I roughly estimate affordability to be roughly where it was in 1997-1998 – the tail end of our last buyers market. If the city is to invest in property, a strong argument to could be made that NOW is the time.  The overwhelming fact remains that  the unique nature of the property and its position on environmentally sensitive land as well as the bear market – has made this large tract of land available for a “song.”

Once the market “turns” opportunities like this will be gone.  So…the city will probably never find such a  favorable set of circumstances for purchasing large parcels of land.

So I will give the city of White Plains the same advice that I give my own buyers.  NOW is a uniquely great time to buy property if you can afford it.

Further Reading:

Gedney Farms White Plains NY

Ridgeway Golf Club Redux – Up on the sale block again

Gedney Farms White Plains rocked about the potential sale of golf club

© 2010 Ruthmarie G. Hicks  – https://thewestchesterview.com  – All rights reserved.

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