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Teed-off group still fighting sale of golf course

| Thursday, June 7, 2001

Fund raisers
A citizens group campaign to buy the Crafton Golf Course has collected these pledges from 57 people totaling $382,675:

Amount: Number
$999 and under: 9
$1,000 to $4,999: 25
$5,000 to $9,999: 10
$10,000 to $14,999: 7
$15,000: to $24,999: 1
$25,000 to $49,999: 4
$50,000-plus: 1

Also, the campaign has raised $380,000 from private foundations, $250,000 from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and $100,000 from the Scaife Family Foundation. In all, the group has raised $1,112,675.

At first, Thornburg residents showed their support for preserving the Crafton Golf Course by pitching 'Save It! Don't Pave It' signs in their front yards.

Five months later, residents have raised pledges for more than $1.1 million toward toward buying the course.

'We've had a terrific response from the residents,' said Mark Perrott of the Save It! Don't Pave It Committee. 'We asked people to stretch in their giving. There is a lot of competition out there for what income the people have. But people realized that this is worthwhile.'

Burns & Scalo Roofing Co. plans to build a headquarters on part of the golf course land and eventually to develop office and warehouse buildings there. But residents who oppose the project say the course, which has operated along Chartiers Creek for 103 years, is the last green space next to Thornburg's residential area.

A hearing on Burns & Scalo's conditional use request for its project is set for June 19 before Thornburg Council. Citizens and the developers will be able to discuss whether industrial development should be allowed on the site.

Joel Aaronson, special counsel to Thornburg, said if the Burns & Scalo proposal is unsuccessful, the citizens could have a shot at buying the land. But he added this depends on terms of the contract that Burns & Scalo worked out with the Lagerman family, which owns the course.

While Burns & Scalo's offer hasn't been disclosed, the golf course property at one point was valued at $1.5 million. Officials at the development firm couldn't be reached for comment.

Perrott said the committee is concentrating on raising money.

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources last month approved a $250,000 state grant for the group, and about $380,000 has been raised from various private foundations, including $100,000 from the Scaife Family Foundation.

But Perrott said the most amazing part is that 57 current and former Thornburg residents and others from the Chartiers Valley area have pledged a total of $382,675.

According to a one-page agreement that contributors signed, the donations aren't due until April 30, 2003, and are payable only if the group buys the golf course.

The 19-member Save It committee meets every Wednesday at Perrott's house. But the free-lance photographer and Thornburg resident of 15 years said the committee has no immediate plans to negotiate with the Lagerman family.

Meanwhile, Mark Lagerman, the manager, superintendent and trustee of the golf club, has been running ads in local papers announcing that the nine-hole course remains open for business.

'We are in a sales agreement right now, and a lot of people have been asking if we are open for business this summer. We just want to let people know that we are still here,' he said.

He wouldn't discuss why his family wants to sell the property, the original site for the Chartiers Country Club.

The Lagerman family purchased it in the 1920s, he said.

Perrott said the course 'is a legacy - it's been around for 100 years. It's a habitat for all sorts of species.'

The citizens group began its campaign in January with anti-development signs in front yards, then sent postcards to Thornburg residents to keep them updated on legal events.

Burns & Scalo filed two complaints in March with Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, hoping to reverse the borough's denials of subdivision and site plans for the development.

The firm filed another lawsuit against the borough and its council members in U.S. District Court, alleging civil rights violations.

Treshea N. Wade can be reached at twade@tribweb.com or (412) 306-4531.

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