The county paid $1.7 million for a 155-acre former horse farm on Fort Smallwood Road Wednesday, which it plans to turn into a public, 18-hole golf course.
A contract to purchase the horse farm from owner Irvin Polashuk was signed Wednesday, said Adrian Teel, Anne Arundel County director of administration. Most of the money will come from state Program Open Space funds.
The deal, which marks the culmination of four years of lobbying by Councilman Edward C. "Buddy" Ahern, D-Pasadena, and a year's worth of negotiations on the part of the outgoing Lighthizer administration, is considered a major coup by the administration.
By buying the horse farm, Teel said, the county not only has found a potential golf course location, but also has secured a spoil site for the long-awaited Rock Creek dredging and saved the property from development.
As recently as last spring, Polashuk said he was planning to develop the property with a 30-home subdivision -- plans that were opposed vehemently by residents. Polashuk declined comment Thursday.
Darlene Schepleng, a Rock Creek activist who lives near the horse farm, exclaimed, "Oh, marvelous!" when told that the land had been sold. "I'm elated. The citizens of this area have been opposing development for almost a decade at that property."
Citizens also are pleased that 10 acres will be set aside as a spoil site for the Rock Creek dredging, which has been on the books for years.
"The dredging will move forward immediately, this winter," Ahern promised.
The future of the proposed golf course project is less certain. The council must approve $800,000 of the cost of the land next spring, Teel said. The current capital budget includes $950,000 toward the horse farm, including the dredge site, and will be paid to Polashuk this year.
No engineering or planning studies have been done on the golf course, Teel said, and the administration is uncertain how much such a project would cost. Last spring, county parks administrator William Rinehart estimated construction of the golf course could cost the county $4 million to $4.5 million.
Whether the new county executive and County Council will be willing to spend that kind of money in a recessionary economy is questionable --especially since the candidates are pledging to tighten county purse strings.
"It remains to be seen how the economy goes," Ahern said. "But one thing's for sure -- that property isn't going to go away. If the economy dictates we have to hold off for a year or so, I think people will understand that."
Ahern -- known for bringing capital projects to his district -- said he is committed to the golf course. "This land has been earmarked for a golf course, and that's what's going to go there," he said.
Ahern has support for the golf course from state legislators, including Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park, and Delegates W. Ray Huff, D-Pasadena, and Charles W. "Stokes" Kolodziejski, D-Carvel Beach.