Proposal would limit use of golf course to residents Hansen hopes plan will pave way for Columbia project

December 08, 1992|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Staff Writer

A story and headline in Tuesday's Howard section may hav given an incorrect impression about Columbia Council Chairman John Hansen's position on a proposed 18-hole golf course. Mr. Hansen says he has not decided between two plans he is proposing -- either to limit the course to residents and guests or to place the site in a conservation program.

Columbia Council Chairman John Hansen will offer a new twist on a controversial proposed 18-hole golf course: Build it but restrict use to residents and their guests.

The council has been deadlocked for months over building a proposed $5.5 million course open to the general public. But Mr. Hansen's proposal could muster a majority for approving the Fairway Hills course on open land in the Village of Town Center when the nine-member council takes up the issue Thursday night.


"The only way in good conscience I can support using Columbia money to build a golf course is if it is limited for the use of Columbians," said Mr. Hansen, who represents Harper's Choice.

"I will not vote to build a golf course that's open to everybody, and the financial picture doesn't change to any significant degree if we restrict it to Columbians."

Four council members -- Charles Ahalt, Gail Bailey, Norma Rose and ran Wishnick -- oppose building any 18-hole course in Columbia.

Council members Evelyn Richardson and Charles Acquard, who have been the strongest golf proponents, say they will back the 18-hole course whether it is restricted to Columbia residents or opened to membership by outsiders. The other two council members, Karen Kuecker and Suzanne Waller, say they are undecided.

Council members say there doesn't appear to be significant support for a suggestion, offered by council member Fran Wishnick, to build a nine-hole course. Ms. Wishnick declined to comment yesterday.

Ms. Bailey, a staunch golf course opponent, said, "The council might vote to approve a course that is only for Columbians, but you know what will happen -- the Columbia Association will come in after the course is built and say we need to open it up for more money."

The non-profit Columbia Association manages the unincorporated community's extensive recreational facilities and provides other public services at the direction of the Columbia Council.

Mr. Hansen, who opposes a nine-hole course, estimates that the annual revenue loss from limiting use of an 18-hole course to residents would be about $25,000 a year. Loses could be higher if the course wasn't used enough to make it profitable by 2004, its sixth year in operation as projected by the Columbia Association.

Mr. Acquard, who has backed building the course for years, said, "My main inclination is to oppose proposals that exclude people from our facilities, but if that's the price it'll take to get this course approved, then I'll support it."

Ms. Richardson supports Mr. Hansen's proposal but wants use of the course restricted on a trial basis.

"It's worth trying to see if it can generate a profit; I'd like it tried on a test basis to give use the option to open it up if we determine we need the outside money, although I really doubt we will. There's enough demand for golf among Columbians that the course won't need outside members," she said.

Ms. Waller said she has not decided how she will vote but acknowledged that while she was president of the Town Center village board, she and her board supported an 18-hole course that would be open to the public. She said she agrees with arguments that some Columbia facilities should be for the exclusive use of residents.

"What I see now are a greater number of options. Because of them I'm not ready to finalize what I'll support," she said.

Ms. Kuecker said she was not ready to commit her support to an 18-hole course because she thinks the council should debate other uses for the land before making a decision.

She said she may propose that the council consider building a nine-hole course coupled with a miniature golf complex. Other council members, however, said Ms. Kuecker's proposal was likely to raise the ire of nearby residents because of concerns over noise and lighting.

Mr. Hansen said he will offer another proposal at Thursday's meeting: Place the nearly 200-acre site into a conservation program, prohibiting any development.

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