Sex convention at Turf Valley leaves some residents upset

They say event will taint family image of the resort

Ellicott City

February 25, 2005|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Word that Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center - in an upscale, tranquil part of western Ellicott City - is hosting an alternative sex convention this weekend has created a stir among some area residents.

Assurances from hotel management that no sign of the weekend's sold-out activities will bother club members using the indoor pool or the hotel's restaurant hasn't assuaged some fears.

"Would you want to put your baby on the bedspread? This hotel is a residential community. Is it appropriate for our community?" said Ingrid Holzman, 42, who lives with her husband and two children in a home on the 800-acre golf course property. "I moved here eight months ago from Massachusetts. I'm not a prude."

But the idea that her family might have gone to dinner at the hotel restaurant without knowing about the "Dark Odyssey -Winter Fire" participants walking the same hallways upset her, she said. The two-day event is so popular that the hotel's 220 rooms are full, and some participants are renting rooms in other hotels, according to the event's Web site.

"I understand they're going to have a great deal of security and such, but I don't believe they can have a truly secure area," Holzman said. "[Anybody] can use the pool."

Turf Valley has two golf courses, a hotel and 170 homes in a conservative part of Howard County.

The hotel is a venue for weddings and dances and is advertising a "Kidz Konvention" March 13, for expectant parents, parents and young children. An Easter Buffet is scheduled for March 27.

On its Web site, Dark Odyssey is billed as "a vacation where you can explore the many facets of sexuality in a private, intimate community of like-minded people," featuring "a multitude of partnering possibilities, from swinging and open relationships to threesomes."

Howard County police Chief Wayne Livesay talked to hotel management at Turf Valley yesterday and is "comfortable that all public safety issues are being taken care of appropriately," at the Dark Odyssey convention, said police spokesman Dave Proulx.

Joe LaVerghetta, general counsel for the hotel, which is owned by Mangione Family Enterprises, said, "This is a private event. The management should be given credit for understanding and dealing with it in a proper way. Most people's concerns are unfounded.

"We're keeping it low profile. That may upset people that we're not going to react to a bunch of e-mails."

Mangione Family Enterprises also owns conservative-oriented WCBM 680 AM radio station.

The upset residents said they feel a breach of trust.

"They put money before how it affects residents in the neighborhood," Holzman said.

"It doesn't bother me personally, but I don't think it shows a tremendous amount of business sense," said Mary Catherine Cochran, a community activist who lives in western Ellicott City near the club.

"If they didn't want the word to get out, then maybe it's not the best use for that facility."

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