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Decisive Swing on New Golf Course HOWARD COUNTY


Those who worried that some 11th-hour catastrophe would scuttle plans for another golf course in Columbia -- an earthquake splitting the proposed back nine? -- can breathe a sigh of relief. There will be a Fairway Hills Golf Course built, owned and operated by the Columbia Association.

The Columbia Council recently signaled a go-ahead for its own plan to build the course by turning thumbs down on another proposal from a developer, who wanted to build a facility with financial help from Howard County that the association would run. That complicated arrangement turned out to have all the appeal of a rattlesnake pit.

It is good that the council recognized this and backed away. Not the least of the problems confronted by the council was the clear indication that the association might never be able to hold title to the property.

That plan -- put forth by developers Thomas J. Scrivener and J.P. Bolduc, who is also president and chief executive officer of W. R. Grace & Co. -- would have had the county sell bonds to finance the construction of the course. The course was to be the centerpiece of an affluent residential development. The association would have run the facility and had the option to assume ownership once the bond debt was paid.

But County Executive Charles I. Ecker balked at the idea of financing the golf course, citing the county's already full plate of capital projects.

It was, however, Mr. Ecker's opposition to relinquishing the deed to the property that placed doubts in council members' minds. That set-up would have relegated them to little more than groundskeepers. Mr. Ecker's insistence that the county retain the deed if it participated also should convince local critics that a new golf course will prove profitable over time.

Now, the association will move ahead with its original plan to build the golf course with its own money. While the Scrivener-Bolduc option offered an attractive alternative by saving the association $5.2 million in building costs, it turned out to be unworkable. That caused another delay for this golf course, which has been discussed for years. It also represented the last roadblock. The association is finally free to begin construction of Fairway Hills.


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