Golf course restrictions approved Council vote limits memberships

December 30, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

The Columbia Council voted 6-3 last night to stop offering Hobbit's Glen Golf Course memberships to non-Columbia residents, saying the facility has become too crowded.

It is believed to be the first time that a Columbia Council has voted to restrict use of a Columbia recreational facility to lien payers -- property owners in Columbia who pay an annual assessment to the Columbia Association, said Rob Goldman, CA vice president and director of membership services.

"The facilities were provided for CA people," said Councilman Charles Ahalt. "They should be restricted to CA people."

The decision -- which affects daily and annual memberships -- is a first step in the council's effort to deal with the issue of restricting use of Columbia's golf course, pools and athletic clubs. Some Columbia residents have expressed a desire to have exclusive use of the facilities to get more "value" out of their annual property lien of 73 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Others have viewed restrictions on nonresidents' use of the facilities as unwise politically because it would be seen as exclusionary and could result in repercussions from county government. They've also expressed concern about revenue losses.

Doug Wilson, chairman of a committee that studied the golf course issue for CA, urged the council to vote against the motion. He called the proposal a "revolutionary policy" for Columbia.

Mr. Wilson stressed that by restricting memberships at Hobbit's Glen, the council should be obligated to apply the same standard to Columbia's wide array of recreational facilities, excluding non-lien payers when any one of them becomes too crowded.

He said the council's "real decision" is whether to proceed with a proposed $5.5 million Fairway Hills golf course, which could relieve crowding at Hobbit's Glen. CA studies have shown that there is enough demand to support two golf courses in Columbia, he said.

But Alex Hekimian, leader of the Alliance for a Better Columbia, a citizens group, supported the decision.

"We're pleased with it," he said. "You have to start somewhere. The facility is obviously overcrowded. The choices are to limit outside membership or increase the price differential [between residents and nonresidents.]"

Council members Evelyn Richardson, Karen Kuecker and Charles Acquard voted against the proposal.

"We'd be sending the message to Columbians that they want to hear, and that's that they're first," said Ms. Richardson. "But is it a hollow message?"

Ms. Richardson said the proposal is a "Band-Aid approach" that won't solve the problem, largely because it eliminates few people from the golf course. She said the proposal will result in a loss of revenue for CA, which manages and operates Columbia's recreational facilities.

Non-Columbia residents still can use the golf course but must purchase a package that also includesaccess to several other recreational facilities. Nonresidents who currently hold golf course memberships are not affected by the proposal.

Mr. Goldman projected that only 10 nonresidents would purchase daily or annual memberships to Hobbit's Glen during fiscal 1994.

Ms. Richardson proposed adding more levels to CA's package plan, which offers a variety of membership choices and varying rates for residents and nonresidents.

Mr. Acquard said the proposal amounts to "symbolism," adding that it's "not going to make a difference."

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