Shifting of tee at Fairway Hills Golf Course drives residents to complain


The Columbia Association (CA) has shifted the location of the 13th tee of Fairway Hills Golf Course now under construction, irritating neighbors and prompting county planners to call for an evaluation of the revision.

While CA couldn't say if the dispute would delay the Sept. 1 opening of the course, its planners are scrambling to submit altered plans to the Howard Department of Planning and Zoning and to ease residents' concerns about the tee.

Residents -- some of whom have been opposed to the golf course since it was proposed in 1990 -- said the tee is now 50 to 75 feet closer to the home of Audrey and James Poole on Ten Mills Road in the Running Brook neighborhood of Columbia's Wilde Lake village.

The CA said the shift is "a few yards only," but it has offered to put in either a fence or shrubbery as a buffer -- in addition to a few trees already there. CA officials are presenting a plan to the Pooles, and the Wilde Lake village will meet to discuss a response at 7:30 tonight.

A buffer would do little to quash the Pooles' fears of losing their safety and privacy. The new tee is just a few feet from their property line, less than 20 feet from their back deck.

"It's the fact that I've lost all my privacy," Mrs. Poole said. "Beyond that, if they put screening up, I lose my view entirely, but I'd rather have the privacy.

"I always wonder, would the people that designed this course live in my house?"

CA officials said that the 30-foot trees already on the Pooles' land should be enough to shield them from stray looks and golf balls. They will not, however, consider moving the tee.

That decision may be out of their hands. The county Planning and Zoning Department is looking into the situation to see if the association overstepped its authority by shifting the tee without approval.

Tomorrow, CA officials will meet about the dispute and decide how to respond to county planners.

Then the county will have to decide if the shift of the 13th tee is enough to warrant an order for CA to move the tee back.

In 1993, the county approved plans for the golf course. But those plans didn't take into account a tee already behind the Pooles' house -- a tee left from a course built 20 years ago. CA Vice President Rob Goldman said that using that tee was more efficient than building one where the architect had envisioned it.

But County Planning Director Joseph Rutter countered: "It doesn't matter to me. If tees weren't on the site development, plan they will have to be re-evaluated."

Wilde Lake residents have lost numerous battles to stop construction of the 204-acre course since it was proposed in 1990 and approved in 1993 by the Columbia Council, the elected body that oversees CA.

Despite vocal opposition, many golfers wanted the course. With the 1985 closing of the Allview course at the site, the remaining courses in Columbia had become overcrowded. Projections by the association are for more than 55,000 rounds of golf a year at the Fairway Hills facility.

The expected volume does not make the residents of Running Brook, the Pooles' neighborhood, happy.

In the past six months, these residents said they have had to come to grips with this reality: A golf course where they didn't want one will open in late summer.

But they became angry when they noticed that the 13th tee was closer to the Pooles' house. Resident Diane Whitaker accused CA of going "behind our backs."

After Mrs. Poole complained publicly about the shift at several community meetings, the association began negotiating to place a screen between the Poole home and the tee.

When the Pooles bought their home on Ten Mills Road in 1993, Mrs. Poole said, they didn't know a golf course would be built there.

Mrs. Poole said her husband plays golf, but he "hadn't anticipated playing on the deck."

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