Golf course plan to proceed

Association board votes to close for rebuilding

16 greens need repair

Stipend for members, lake dredging discussed


October 14, 2002|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

The Columbia Association's board of directors has voted to proceed with a plan to close the Hobbit's Glen Golf Club for one year to rebuild 16 damaged greens.

Seven board members supported the construction, which would begin in August, in a straw vote Saturday during the board's weekend workshop on the capital budget.

The remaining three board members - Joshua Feldmark of Wilde Lake, Barbara Russell of Oakland Mills and Wolfger Schneider of Harper's Choice - abstained.

The golf course project - and all other proposals supported by the board during the workshop - will not be formally approved or rejected until the board passes the budget in February. The board will receive a draft budget in December.

Among other topics discussed at the workshop yesterday and Saturday were proposals to pay board members a stipend and to dredge Lake Kittamaqundi.

The board - which also acts as the Columbia Council - said yesterday it was aiming for a capital budget of about $8 million for fiscal year 2004.

The straw vote on the golf course will allow Columbia Association staff "to go forward with this in the budget process," Council Chairman Miles Coffman said.

Under the plan, 16 of the greens would be rebuilt while the remaining four greens - which already meet United States Golf Association standards - would be fumigated and reseeded. CA staff estimated that the greens would not deteriorate for at least 30 years.

The construction would cost $679,000, while the net business loss for closing the course for one year would be $529,000. Depending on weather, the course would reopen in May 2004.

The 18-hole course, which has two practice greens, has been troubled by damaged greens that have led to a loss in revenue. Association golf managers have attributed the damaged turf to a number of causes, including poor original construction, turf disease, drought and the course's 35-year-old age.

"The seriousness of this matter really necessitates that we do something pretty expeditiously," said Rob Goldman, CA's vice president for sport and fitness.

If the course were closed for a year, golfers could end their memberships without cancellation fees. For those who keep their annual memberships, CA would provide programs at the course such as a golf conditioning class. Annual and daily members could play at Columbia's other course, Fairway Hills Golf Club.

"We would do as many things as we could to keep the annual members on board," said Robert D. Bellamy, CA's operations manager for sport and fitness facilities division.

Goldman also presented the board with two other plans to fix the golf course greens.

One plan included installing turf drains on 11 greens and fumigating and reseeding 19 greens. Construction would have cost $283,800 and the greens would have lasted for about 10 years before more renovation was needed, according to CA staff.

The other option included rebuilding nine greens, fumigating and reseeding four greens and installing turf drains on seven greens. That plan would have cost $515,200, and the greens that would have been rebuilt wouldn't deteriorate for about 30 years, CA staff estimated.

Goldman told the board there was no "absolute guarantee" that repairs to the greens would be successful, but he said the options he presented would maximize the chances.

"Greens on golf courses are living organisms," he said. "Their conditions are not an exact science."

During the weekend, the board also voted on a number of other proposals that CA staff, board members and villages requested be included in the 2004 budget.

In an attempt to encourage more residents to run for the board, the board supported in a 5-4 straw vote awarding board members a $5,000 stipend.

The 10-member elected board is currently not paid, and Councilman Kirk Halpin of Kings Contrivance proposed the stipend as a way to "spur interest" in running for the board.

In the last election, six board members were up for re-election and only three faced challenges.

Under the proposal, the board members would receive the stipend at the end of the fiscal year in April if they had attended at least 80 percent of all regular and special council and board meetings from start to finish.

The stipends would be implemented for two years and could be extended by the board, Halpin said.

Board members were split on whether they should be compensated or if their positions should be solely community service.

"This decision should only be, `Is this going to make a stronger board of directors?'" said Feldmark, who voted for the proposal. "I don't really know."

In the most expensive project proposed by CA's open-space management division, the board approved in a 7-3 straw vote $1 million to go toward dredging Lake Kittamaqundi and returning the Little Patuxent River to its original configuration. The river, which runs alongside the lake, is contributing a large amount of sediment to the lake, said Chick Rhodehamel, CA's vice president for open-space management.

The proposal is contingent on receiving an additional $1 million from other agencies to help fund the project. The lake dredging would remove sediment from the northern third of the lake, which is heavily silted, and would restore the lake to predevelopment conditions, according to the proposal.

Without dredging, the lake eventually will become a marsh, Rhodehamel said.

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