Former Groton golf course reverts to farmland

Groton — The land that once was home to the Birch Plain Golf Course and most recently The Pines Golf Course & Driving Range is now officially farmland.

Through The Day's CuriousCT initiative, readers asked: What is happening to the former par-3 golf course in Groton? The golf course land has long been owned by the Ackley family. John Ackley had developed Birch Plain Golf Course with his brother Ted Ackley, after they gave up potato farming in the 1950s.

After The Pines closed in 2018, Jason Lewis, who owns and operates ROL Haven Farms off Route 184 in Groton, said the Ackleys approached him with the goal of turning the former golf course back into farmland.

"Before World War II, the whole area was potato fields, and they wanted to turn it back into farmland," said Lewis, who lives in Groton and is leasing the property from the Ackleys.

"We turned it into farmland because the taxes were so high," said Marion Lamb, John Ackley's daughter.

The former golf course — specifically, a total of 45 of the 46 acres — was classified as farmland for the Oct. 1, 2018, grand list, town Tax Assessor Mary Gardner said. The combined assessment as a golf course for all five parcels was $1,398,460, while the combined assessments as farmland total $129,830.

That means the taxes were $45,530 in 2017 and $3,950 in 2018.

Lewis said he’s been pasturing some draft horses there, cutting hay and holding draft horse events, such as hayrides. The horses — which go between ROL Haven Farms and the former golf course — spent most of last spring plowing the old driving range area, where sunflowers will be planted this coming spring, Lewis said. Throughout the summer, they were raking hay on the property.

A group of preschoolers will be visiting the property later this month to see the horses, said Lewis, pointing to an example of the types of events held at the former golf course.

The land at 119 High Rock Road had been home to The Pines Golf Course & Driving Range from 2016 until summer of 2018. The Day reported that the golf course owner, Mark Vinchesi, cited financial issues that he said arose after the golf course’s greens were damaged by the lawn care company treating them. Without sufficient funds to repair all the greens, he said he decided to make the 3-par golf course a nine-hole executive course.

According to court files, Vinchesi of Windward Golf Management Inc. filed suit against the company SavATree, which denied the claims. The case was settled and has been withdrawn, said attorney Michael A. Hardesty, who represents Windward Golf Management. A lawyer for SavATree said he could not comment.

Though it is being farmed, the land is for sale. Lamb said the family will sell the property, if the opportunity arises, because family members are getting older and don’t want their children to have to deal with the land.

The asking price for the 46.04 acres, zoned industrial, is $3,999,000, said agent Judy Walsh of Pequot Commercial. The property has 2,350-foot frontage on two roads and is “flat, ready-to-build land with water and sewer” hookups, as well as gas lines about 1,000 feet away, she said.

k.drelich@theday.com

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