Locust Valley's Conservation Easement Request Denied
Alternate business plan needed for owner Ashford.
(Editor's note: A version of this article ran last week with several mistakes. Upper Saucon Patch regrets these errors.)
The Upper Saucon Board of Supervisors voted against the township funding a $2.5 million conservation easement for Locust Valley Golf Course as a way to help the course avoid other kinds of development.
The township has considered this option since 2009 when it paid for an appraisal. Robert Ashford, owner of Locust Valley, gave a presentation to the board requesting it to fund the easement.
“It [golf course] would serve as a beautiful asset and a place of recreation for the community,” said Ashford, who offered a 10 percent reduction in greens fees for township residents had the easement been accepted.
Ashford believed the easement would have been advantageous for the township as a whole, since it would have purchased the land’s development rights for under half of the appraised value over a 10-year period. Ashford was also willing to make immediate short-term investments up to $800,000 if the board voted to fund the easement.
“In order for it to be successful, it needs a clubhouse with a small restaurant and continued maintenance improvements to compete against other local courses,” said Ashford.
Supporters of Ashford’s cause addressed the board, citing Ashford’s history of success and the course’s potential value as reasons why the board should fund the easement.
“Rob has been successful in everything he has done,” said Joe Milutis, an adviser to Ashford. “He has the time, commitment and money to make it one of the finest courses in the Lehigh Valley.”
Ultimately, the board disagreed with Ashford’s assertions that the easement was the property’s only chance at avoiding development.
“I think it’s a false premise to say that the township needs to make a financial decision or the golf course will be developed,” said Vice Chairman John Gilda. “Other conservatories might be interested.”