Developers are considering building an upscale development and golf course that could expand Columbia's borders and influence the Columbia Council's decision on whether to build a golf course at Fairway Hills.
An attorney for the developers approached executives of the nonprofit Columbia Association last week, proposing to form a partnership with the association and county government to build and operate a golf course on part of a 335-acre tract just north of the Village of Harpers Choice, association officials said.
Between 120 and 135 homes, selling for $300,000 to $450,000 each, could be built on the rest of the site and placed under the Columbia Association's annual property charge, or "lien," said council Chairman John M. Hansen, who represents Harpers Choice.
"We haven't progressed far enough for specifics. It's just broad outlines at this point," said E. Alexander Adams, the developers' attorney who presented the proposal to the association.
Mr. Adams said the developers, W. R. Grace & Co. President and Chief Executive Officer J. P. Bolduc, and builder J. Thomas Scrivener, have not purchased the land, which is bordered by Route 108, Homewood Road and the Middle Patuxent River. The tract is part of the 2,400-acre Doughoregan Manor that was the home of Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and is still owned by the Carroll family.
The developers would like to donate 180 acres for the golf course to the county, which would sell bonds to build a tournament-class golf course. The Columbia Association would manage the golf course, then take over ownership or lease the course after the bond issue is repaid, Mr. Adams said.
County Executive Charles I. Ecker said he has not been approached with the concept by the developers.
The proposal has already worried advocates of the Columbia Association's planned Fairway Hills Golf Course, said Donald J. Dunn, president of the Howard County Golf Association. Golfers have fought for nearly eight years for a new golf course at Fairway Hills, where the Allview Golf Course was closed in 1985 to make way for development.
In a straw vote Feb. 4, the council narrowly approved the $5.2 million golf course project.
The course has been the focus of years of debate over how the Columbia Association should spend money collected through property liens and whether the facility would be profitable.
With the Columbia Council's final vote on its capital budget scheduled for tonight or tomorrow night, the timing of the proposal was "certainly not ideal," said Columbia Association President Padraic Kennedy.
Although Mr. Hansen said the new golf course proposal contains "a number of very big 'ifs,' " council members have expressed interest in exploring the possibility within 45 days. Council members want to learn more about the legal and financial aspects of the proposed community and its effect on Columbia, he said.
"The question would be, 'Is this so significantly in the interests of the Columbia community that it would outweigh the plans that they have on Fairway Hills?,' " Mr. Kennedy said.
In the meantime, the council will move forward with plans for Fairway Hills, Mr. Hansen said.
"One thing we don't want to do is disappoint a lot of people who want Fairway Hills, or raise hopes of those who are opposed," he added.
One of those opponents, council member Norma Rose of Wilde Lake, said that if the golf course partnership proves to be a practical option that could save the association money, that it could affect plans for Fairway Hills.
"There certainly are some things about it that make it extremely interesting and worth consideration," she said.
One item that may get new scrutiny is a 1988 consultant's report that described the Fairway Hills site as "marginally acceptable," and said the Carroll property "must definitely be placed as the No. 1 selection," of five sites evaluated.
The report praised the Carroll property's environmental characteristics, which included extensive woods, proximity to the Middle Patuxent River and enough room for 27 holes.
But Mr. Dunn said some of those characteristics, particularly the site's drainage into the Middle Patuxent, could pose environmental obstacles to its development. Mr. Dunn added that a golf course there would complement the Fairway Hills course, not compete with it.
Howard golfers, led by Mr. Dunn, have fought for more than 15 years for construction of public golf courses as an alternative for the overcrowded Hobbits Glen facility, which is operated by the Columbia Association.