Tilting at Golf Courses

November 25, 1993

A lot of homeowners would love to have their house back onto a golf course. The expanse of green is nice to look at, someone else is responsible for the upkeep and it enhances neighboring property values to boot.

But there's no accounting for some people's reactions. Two Columbia residents have asked the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for a hearing to challenge the state's decision to grant environmental permits that would allow the Columbia Association to build an 18-hole golf course.

The residents, Mario E. Jorquera and Virginia H. Scott, live in Running Brook, where a number of homes would abut several course holes.

They contend that the pesticides to be used on the course present a physical threat and that grading to construct the course may cause flooding in their homes.

Their request for a hearing comes after nearly a decade of wrangling over this issue, during which every possible contingency and roadblock has been thoroughly reviewed and surmounted. Adjustments have been made, including the adoption of a University of Maryland agronomist's turf management program to limit pesticide runoff. Also, the demand for a new course has been documented and association officials contend it will turn a profit in relatively short order.

Having jumped through all the prerequisite hoops, the Columbia Association now faces stonewalling by a couple of residents who have decided to hold the rest of the community hostage while they mount this last-gasp effort.

If they are granted a hearing, the association could still proceed with construction -- at the risk of spending vast resources on what could become an 18-hole ghost town. Another option would be to build a nine-hole course, saving the second half until resolution of the complaints.

If the department does see fit to grant a hearing to Mr. Jorquera and Ms. Scott, we believe it will conclude that DNR officials and the community association have sufficiently addressed their concerns.

Such a ruling might even put an end to this long-running merry-go-round of an issue, although given its contentious nature, making predictions can be hazardous.

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