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The Village of Sands Point is answering residents' calls for a vote on if and how to finance the expansion of the nine hole golf course at the Village Club of Sands Point to 18 holes. The board of trustees passed a resolution at a March 31 meeting calling for a referendum if cost estimates on the expansion exceed money already approved by voters for capital projects at the 208 acre municipal country club.

Though the resolution reiterated the village's desire to expand the course, a referendum will be put before the electorate if the cost of expansion cannot be paid for out of the original $15 million bond issue approved by voters in 1994. From that issue, $12.7 million bought the former IBM Country Club, and $700,000 went to construct a swimming pool two years ago.

No firm cost estimates are available on the nine-hole expansion, but officials did announce they would solicit bids after legal and environmental hurdles are bridged, indicating the job can't be done from remaining funds. Officials believe the expansion to 18 holes is necessary for the long-term financial viability of the club.

In recent months, some residents have called for a vote on the expansion, saying any taxpayer-funded expansion could be a hardship on some homeowners, particularly those not using the golf facilities. The board, while still firmly in favor of the larger course, has agreed to poll the entire village on "any amount over $15 million," said Mayor Leonard Wurzel.

"It is the desire of the village not to impose the excess cost beyond the initial $15 million on the taxpayers," said Wurzel, reading from the resolution. "The village expresses its commitment" to the expansion.

"Without raising taxes, added Trustee Eugene Luntey.

"We've said it individually, but now it's official," said Wurzel. "You need a referendum if it exceeds $15 million. The referendum would be for any amount over $15 million, wherever the money comes from." He said the village has "about $1.5 million left-over" from the original bond issue.

The village is trying to sell three vacant lots it owns in the Harriman subdivision for development to finance the golf course expansion. Dubbed Water's Edge, the property was given to the village by former resident Governor Averill Harriman.

The village is also currently in litigation with two residents on that sale and if those moneys can be applied to the expansion. Wurzel noted that the village has a possible sale "for one acre-and-a-half lot for $1.4 million."

After settling the legal battles, conducting the required environmental studies, passing a referendum for the financing, and building the extra nine holes, will the 18 hole course be ready for the summer of 1999?

"Hopefully," replied Wurzel.

Though the 1998-'99 village budget is still in the hammering-out phase, Mayor Leonard Wurzel commented that Sands Point taxes won't go up next year.

"It appears the tax rate is going to be the same for the fourth year in a row," he said. "That's never happened before."

Wurzel announced copies of the budget will be available for village residents at Village Hall "about April 15."

A public hearing on the budget will be held April 28, 8 p.m.

The board of trustees tabled a controversial proposed maintenance law that would require homeowners to "cut, trim or remove all dead, dying or fallen trees and branches...located within 20 feet" of public or private roads. But not before Port's best-known centenarian had his say before the board.

"I don't like the way the village is going with all these laws," said 100-year-old, former Sands Point Mayor George Bergman.

"You used to be able to let your dog run free," he said. "Now you need an expert to come in and tell me a tree is dead. I can tell you if it's dead!"

"I understand we're going to have to take care of our frontage (to the street). I've got 1,400 feet of frontage. I pick up a lot of the debris that's out there. I used to pick up what I could, but I don't bend as good as I used to."

"Pretty soon, around here it's going to be like Garden City or Bronxville where you have to have a permit to breathe."

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