Pga Officials Address Golf-course Concerns In A Meeting With East Norriton Leaders, They Responded To Issues Including Wildlife And Community Involvement.

Posted: September 29, 2000

EAST NORRITON — Officials from the Professional Golfers Association of America have met with local leaders to allay concerns arising from a proposal to build two 18-hole golf courses at state-owned Norristown Farm Park.

The proposed golf courses would take up all 410 acres of the park in East Norriton. Supervisors Chairman John Gourley said township officials were angry because they had been excluded from the planning and feared that there would be no open space left in which to expand local park and recreation facilities.

Montgomery County Commissioner James Matthews has said that the courses would be built to PGA standards to attract big tournaments and famous players to the area and that it would generate multimillion-dollar benefits. The estimated cost of the courses is $30 million.

In outlining the plans Wednesday night, Jack Lutz, PGA Philadelphia section executive director, said the group was ready to work with the community.

"We want to find out what your needs are and see if we can incorporate them into our plans," Lutz said, responding to residents' concerns about wildlife and walking trails.

Six months ago, Lutz said, the PGA began looking for a golf facility to house its corporate headquarters. Although the association looked at other locations in West Deptford and the Lehigh Valley, Norristown Farm Park was chosen for its readily available utilities and central location.

"There was no intentional purpose to exclude East Norriton township officials," Lutz said.

The county currently leases the parkland from the state, said Helmuth Baerwald, township manager. Under the agreement, the state pays $325,000 yearly to maintain the property and expects the county to match that amount.

Matthews has said the plan requires the approval of the county and the municipalities involved - Norristown and East and West Norriton. He said Wednesday that he had not been invited to attend the meeting with East Norriton officials.

Gourley was dubious about the project's economic benefits to the township. The golf courses would cost the township more money for additional security and improved infrastructure to accommodate increased traffic to the area.

"Almost $500,000 in new expenses would have to be shouldered by East Norriton," Gourley said. "If you can show how we can economically recuperate from this plan, we would have more interest."

Lutz said his group could do fund-raising to defray security costs when the PGA of America brings events to the area. The PGA Tour, an entity different from PGA of America, usually pays for extra security on a contractual basis, he said.

Patricio Balona's e-mail address is pbalona@phillynews.com

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