Watertown City Council eliminates Thompson Park parking lot

·2 min read

Feb. 24—WATERTOWN — Park-goers and golfers will no longer be able to use a makeshift parking lot in an area of Thompson Park near the Watertown Golf Club.

After years of debate, the City Council passed an ordinance 3-1 Tuesday night to eliminate the overflow parking area, with Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith defending that it should remain in existence.

Councilor Sarah V. Compo Pierce was absent from the meeting.

The ordinance deletes the gravel area from the city code's list of designated parking areas for Thompson Park.

The parking area has been a source of debate for years and a subject of a lawsuit before the latest round of "Golf Gate" came up.

The vote came up on Tuesday night after council members erroneously failed to take a final vote two weeks ago on an environmental study related to eliminating the parking lot.

Mayor Smith and Councilors Lisa A. Ruggiero and Cliff G. Olney III debated the issue again for 40 minutes on Tuesday night.

The two council members argued over golfers primarily using the lot and the Watertown Golf Club getting preferential treatment.

Meanwhile, Mayor Smith contended that there has been no conspiracy to allow the golf club to use the area for parking, adding that "nobody cares about which blade of grass up there somebody's parking on."

Earlier in the argument, council members decided to complete a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment on the area — and forego the Phase I portion of the study.

Council members are concerned about potential contamination from vehicles and golf carts parked in the area for decades, and where an above-ground fuel tank was located.

In 2019, a previous council eliminated the parking lot. The next council in 2020 reversed that decision to reopen it.

Michael E. Lundy has leased nine holes on 63 acres from the city since he purchased the golf club in 2018 from the group that previously operated the club.

The city was previously sued by businessman P.J. Simao, who owns Ives Hill Country Club. He accused the city of giving preferential treatment and providing a sweetheart deal to Mr. Lundy.

In November 2021, Mr. Simao dropped an appeal in the lawsuit in which Mr. Olney had joined him as a plaintiff.