Swinging toward a new golf course HOWARD COUNTY

February 11, 1993

The Columbia Council has finally asserted itself by voting in favor of an 18-hole golf course spanning the villages of Wilde Lake and Town Center. Now the question is: Will it stick by that decision?

The council, not especially known for courage or consistency, conducted what it called a straw vote during a budget work session last week. After years of debate and bickering over the issue, the vote was 5-3 favoring construction of the $5.2 million golf course project. That doesn't mean, however, that the town council can't change its mind before a final vote is taken next month.

The same incendiary forces that have engulfed this proposal to date will undoubtedly be re-ignited by the straw vote. Hopefully, Columbia Council members can now determine the credible players in this debate.

For years, a new golf course has had opponents, ranging from residents who don't want a course near their homes to those who question the wisdom of spending millions on a venture whose profitability they doubt. Many of their concerns have already been addressed. Other questions remain to be answered as the Columbia Association pursues county, state and federal government approvals for the project. The Howard County planning board has already endorsed the course.

Environmental worries were also raised months ago. Some of these have been answered and those that still linger should be addressed as part of the process that any developer would face.

In the end, the council's straw vote rightly rested on economic matters.

The only reliable studies put before the council indicate that an 18-hole course would turn a profit within four years.

Also, John Hansen, the council's chairman, concluded correctly that Columbia should take advantage of low interest rates to finance the construction of the course.

The big winners here are, of course, the local golfers.

They long ago proved the need for a new course by enduring years of frustration and crowded conditions at Columbia's only existing golf facility at Hobbits Glen.

For the town council to countermand its straw vote now would betray this patient constituency.

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