Columbia golf course would harm the Little Patuxent River, opponents say Hearing is tomorrow on permit request

June 16, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

Opponents of the Fairway Hills Golf Course plan to tell state environmental officials the project would cause unacceptable harm to the Little Patuxent River.

The state Water Resources Administration will hear testimony tomorrow night on the Columbia Association's applications to withdraw water from the river, perform construction work in the river's flood plain and disturb about three acres of nontidal wetlands.

"There's a whole passel of unresolved environmental concerns that CA hasn't begun to address," said Wilde Lake village resident Ginger Scott, who, along with her husband, Thomas, has written several letters to the Department of Natural Resources requesting a hearing and denial of the permits.

"CA has just not been coming forth with all the facts," she said.

Dennis Mattey, CA's construction manager, said the nonprofit association has revised its applications several times since May 1992 to "lessen impacts on the environment" in response to DNR reviews and site inspections.

Mr. Mattey said the association could receive all permits from the state and county necessary to begin construction within the next four months, barring any problems.

The 204-acre, 18-hole championship course would be built on the southwest side of the junction of Route 108 and Columbia Road, just west of Route 29. It would wind through the villages of Dorsey's Search, Town Center and Wilde Lake and would be bisected by the Little Patuxent River.

The Columbia Council approved $5.2 million to construct the course, which is intended to relieve crowding at the Hobbit's Glen Golf Course. Some residents oppose the large expenditure, question demand for the course and fear adverse impact on the environment and neighborhoods. Supporters say demand exists for a second golf course and view the project as an investment.

Residents in Wilde Lake village's Running Brook neighborhood, through which the course would run, have been the most vocal opponents.

"In my mind, there would have to be extraordinary circumstances to justify doing anything in the Little Patuxent River basin," said resident Dick West. "Streams, rivers and wetlands are being nickeled and dimed to death."

Plans call for permanently destroying 350 square feet of lower vegetation "scrub-shrub" wetland. Trees would be removed on 1.57 acres of forested wetland, and on another 1.2 acres within a 25-foot wetland buffer. A different type of wetland would remain where the trees are cleared because tree stumps would be left and lower vegetation and soil would not be disturbed, according to the association's engineer, The RBA Group.

Wetlands are swamps, bogs, marshes, woods and other areas that support vegetation and act as natural filters for pollutants.

The Department of Natural Resources requires applicants to demonstrate that "reasonable alternatives" to disrupting wetlands are not feasible, wrote DNR Secretary Torrey C. Brown Running Brook resident William Kovensky, who had inquired about the applications.

If the project is feasible at alternative locations, the agency "will not authorize the project as proposed." If a site is deemed suitable, wetland impacts are minimized, Dr. Brown wrote.

Mr. Mattey said he has walked "every acre" of the course. Woods that would be cleared along the course are "immature stands" of trees, he said.

"We'll plant a lot of trees," he said. "We're not putting impervious surfaces down."

In a nine-page letter to DNR objecting to the course, Mr. Scott suggests that a nine-hole course built east of the river would cause less environmental harm, and says he's "not satisfied with CA's claim that environmental degradation has been avoided as much as possible."

The RBA Group says, "All efforts were made to avoid impacts to the wetlands and stream channel" and still develop a high caliber golf course. No other CA-owned property meets the "size and site requirements" for a course.

Bonnie Johnson, chairwoman of Howard County's Sierra Club chapter, also recommended that "less damaging" alternatives be considered.

Mr. Scott says approval of the permits would reinforce "CA's arrogant assumption [that] it is justified in practicing an environmental ethic that falls woefully short of contemporary environmental standards."

The hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. in Room N220 of Howard Community College's Nursing Building.

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