Columbia Council's Prudent Course HOWARD COUNTY

March 04, 1993

The Columbia Council has acted prudently in its cautious approach toward building a new golf course, especially in light of a private developer's sudden proposal to do the same. This go-slow stance indicates council members may be gaining clarity about their role in the community.

That has been a difficult role for the council to decipher given the unusual structure of the Columbia Association, which the council oversees. Part government, part business, the association's split personality has at times alienated it from residents, who are constituents and shareholders by virtue of the lien they pay to the organization.

Anything that moves the council closer to better representing its constituents, without abandoning sound business practices, must be applauded. The council's decision to hold off, at least temporarily, on its plans to build a $5.2 million golf course represents the kind of rational, good government too often missing from the council's make-up these days.

It is heartening that the council reacted so reasonably to what was essentially a developer's 11th-hour appeal. The council is giving a private development partnership 45 days to present the details of its proposal for a golf course, to be surrounded by an upscale residential development. If merit is found in the plan, the council has given itself an additional 55 days for further study.

The pros and cons of the proposal, including a complicated three-way entanglement between the developer, Howard County government and the association, need careful consideration. If there are financial benefits to be reaped from this arrangement, better that the association not rush blindly ahead with its own project.

At the same time, by imposing deadlines on itself and the developer, the council clearly signals an unwillingness to scuttle its own plans simply because of a private partnership's tentative overtures. County golfers have already waited a long time for another course to ease crowding on the links; an infinite delay as a result of this latest wrinkle would seem unreasonable at this point.

The council's message to the developer is clear: Make sure there's some meat to this proposal or forget it. Such a strong and responsible stance is much welcomed.

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