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Developer offers to buy Bethlehem Country Club

Golf course would be part of $40 million development

March 04, 2009
BETHLEHEM—A developer proposed buying the Bethlehem Country Club during the Board of Selectmen meeting Monday night.

Massachusetts developer Charles Bourget approached the board with an offer to buy the town-owned Bethlehem Country Club, along with its Donald Ross designed golf course.

No price was discussed; Bourget said he was simply putting the offer out there to see if the board was interested. Board members, who said any final decision would have to be voted on by the voters at town meeting next year, made no decision.

"If you're interested I'd like to start the process now," Bourget said.

Board Chair Jeanne Robillard said there could be no process until the voters made a decision. Before that the select board would decide whether to put the question on the warrant but that decision would not be made until late fall.

"I knew there would be stumbling blocks along the way," Bourget said.

"They're not stumbling blocks, they're procedures," said Selectman Harold Friedman.

In the meanwhile, Robillard said it would behoove Bourget to do as much research as possible into issues such as whether town water and sewer would be adequate to go with the project he has proposed.

In addition to buying the country club, Bourget plans on building a 140-unit hotel on the property, possibly where the town Department of Public Works building is located. He said he and his investors would consider moving the highway garage if another site could be found.

Bourget said the entire project would create a destination resort in the center of Bethlehem that would draw people both in the summer and winter. There would be golf, swimming and shuttle vans going to local ski areas.

Bourget had approached the Planning Board several months ago about building a large, four-story hotel on Main Street right next to the country club at the site of a former hotel. That structure was torn down around five years ago.

The plan included underground parking and 140 units. It fell through, however, when Bourget and property owner Bruce Cunningham couldn't come to an agreement, Bourget said. Bourget gave no more details except it came down to a matter of price.

Now instead of putting the 140 rooms in one building, Bourget said they likely would be spread among several structures. Even when he was trying to purchase Cunningham's property, however, he always planned on buying the golf course and country club.

"My investors don't want to lease, for this kind of investment they would want to buy the golf course," Bourget said. Up to $40 million could be spent on the project, he said.

Without owning the golf course his investors would not back the project, Bourget said. He said he planned few changes for the course, just making it more challenging, possibly moving a hole or two.

Selectman Mark Fiorentino said he would oppose the project if any holes were to be moved because it is a historic Donald Ross golf course that attracts people to town.

Bourget said he understands the timetable and that nothing can be done until next year. He said he would research the project more. If it is determined his project would put a strain on town water and sewer, his investors would either build a private system on the property or pay to upgrade the town system.

Bourget said he will return in the fall with a thorough presentation about what he hopes to build to convince the select board it is a good idea.

Tilton School
Martin Lord Osman
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