Brian McGrory

This one's a bogey

By Brian McGrory
Globe Columnist / January 7, 2011

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What is it that causes the rich, or a particular kind of rich, to constantly fight among themselves? Do their designer jeans pinch and make them ornery? Do they feel aggrieved by the weight of their Prada bags?

How else to explain what is going on in the pleasant environs of a place called Wellesley, home to the largest concentration of BMW SUVs and Hermes scarves in Massachusetts. It’s also the site of an intramural battle that, for its sheer absurdity, is impossible to ignore.

At the center is the Wellesley Country Club, best known in the tradition-rich world of golf as the place that bulldozed its charming century-old clubhouse a few years back to build a palace that’s a better fit for a monarch than the 15-handicappers who generally populate the place.

The proposal to build it, and the massive assessment that accompanied it, caused a yearslong civil war at the club. But with that all behind them, the remaining members now find themselves staring out the windows of their gorgeous new building at — gasp — the old tractor barn, located perilously close by.

So the club leadership wants to raze it and build a new maintenance facility along a wooded road far from the clubhouse. The proposed building will be four times the size of the current shed, two stories high, 23,000 square feet large, with its own self-contained washing facility.

John Deere didn’t keep his own tractors up this well — but John Deere didn’t live in Wellesley.

To their credit, club officials picked a road in which the only house belongs to the club itself, so the facility wouldn’t be in anyone’s view. The problem is, Brookside Road has been there since 1721 and has accumulated no small number of fans over the centuries.

It is, in fact, a ribbon of pavement covered by an endless canopy of stately trees. On one side is the golf course, and on the opposite side is Rosemary Brook, with a swath of hillside forest beyond it.

“It’s a tranquil, pristine setting that’s the biggest wildlife area in Wellesley,’’ said Laura Fragasso, a resident and one of the leading opponents.

She said this as she led me along a path through the woods above the brook on a day that couldn’t have been warmer than 10 degrees. “Do you know what an esker is?’’ she called back as I negotiated stumps and rocks.

“I do.’’

Actually, I had no idea, but I hoped it was a hut with a fireplace and hot chocolate. No, it was the glacially-formed hill we were walking on.

She stopped short and pointed to a heron skimming the top of the frozen brook, a beautiful sight. “That’s where the building goes,’’ Fragasso said of the nearby stakes on the other side of the road. “The size of a Roche Bros.’’

Opponents have held a protest walk along Brookside. They are petitioning the town boards that will rule on the plan. The proposed site sits within a 200-foot waterfront buffer zone, so they are raising environmental concerns.

A Wellesley Country Club member, Paul DeYesso, gave me a presentation and took me on a tour of his own. He was a nice guy, straightforward, and accommodating. “We want to be a good neighbor,’’ he said.

Okay, but what explains the garish “No Trespassing’’ signs the club posted on Brookside Road, or the fact that the club dumped mounds of debris by the road that led to a cease and desist order from the town?

Last night, DeYesso said the club now plans to cut the size of the facility by several thousand square feet and move the equipment wash to another part of the course, in the spirit of compromise.

It’s not likely going to be enough. The reality is that this Taj Mahal of a maintenance shed doesn’t belong along a 300-year-old road beside a sensitive brook.

On this, the good members of Wellesley Country Club are in a place that’s probably familiar to them: out of bounds.

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at