Carroll neighbors teed off by golf plan

25-acre driving range would disrupt area's rural quality, residents say

June 22, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan | Jennifer Sullivan,SUN STAFF

A Westminster-area farmer who sees more profit in a golf venture than soybeans and corn has raised the ire of neighbors who oppose a plan for a driving range on a portion of his property.

"It's stirring up the neighborhood," said Nancy Wagner, who lives near the site of the proposed 25-acre driving range. "It's rural out here; neighbors just don't want change."

The dispute stems from W. Glenn Haines' plans to sell a portion of his 66-acre farm on South Pleasant Valley Road -- about two miles west of Westminster -- to a local developer who wants to build the Island Green Driving Range.

The county must grant a conditional use for the venture to proceed. The property is zoned for agriculture use. The Carroll Board of Zoning Appeals will hear the case at 9: 30 a.m. today at the County Office Building in Westminster.

Haines' neighbors along South Pleasant Valley Road are writing letters to county officials and say they plan to speak at the hearing.

Nancy Wagner's husband, John, wrote a letter to the county addressing his family's concerns about lighting, traffic and late hours.

"We don't care for the traffic it may involve," she said, adding that South Pleasant Valley Road is narrow.

The driving range is a sensitive topic for Haines and his wife, Doris. The 75-year-old farmer has spent his life on the farm and said he "can't figure out why [the driving range] is bothering" the community.

"I thought we had good neighbors," he said. "There won't be any traffic on South Pleasant Valley Road, and it is a good quarter- or a half-mile away from another house."

Westminster resident Michael Mand asked Haines to sell a section of his farm for the driving range last fall.

Mand, marketing manager for Premium Finance of America Inc. in Baltimore, has never built a golf range but has created a company, Countryside Driving Range, for the operation.

"It's a good market," said Mand, who has golfed for 38 of his 51 years.

The driving range at 1335 S. Pleasant Valley Road -- just off Route 140 -- would be about six miles southeast of Taneytown and two miles from downtown Westminster. The range would be able to accommodate 60 golfers at one time. Bear Creek Golf Club -- off Route 97 north of Westminster -- has room for 10 golfers on its driving range.

Over the past month, Mand has talked to Haines' neighbors about the project. He also has handed out computerized sketches of the driving range, which would feature a water hazard.

"We're addressing every issue imaginable," he said, adding that lighting, noise and water use have been the top concerns expressed by neighbors.

Mand plans to place tees 400 yards from neighboring homes and Route 140. He said he also plans to plant trees "to create a natural screen," close the facility by 10 p.m., hire security, and have trucks bring in all water needed to tend the green.

Mand said he also plans to give neighbors free access to the range.

"A lot of them know nothing about golf and don't know about the people who come to a range," Mand said.

If the Board of Zoning Appeals approves a conditional use for the driving range, Mand said, construction could begin as early as September -- after Haines harvests his crops. Mand said he plans a May opening.

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