Residents' safety, privacy concerns force relocation of golf course tee


In a rare victory for opponents of the Fairway Hills Golf Course, the Columbia Association has relocated a tee that had ** been shifted closer to homes in Columbia's Wilde Lake village than originally planned.

Homeowners James and Audrey Poole first complained to the association about six weeks ago, when they saw that the 13th tee was moved to just a few feet from their property line and less than 20 feet from the rear deck of their home on Ten Mills Road in the Running Brook neighborhood.

"Our concern was safety and our concern was privacy," said Mr. Poole, a golfer.

At that time, the association refused to consider moving the tee. So area homeowners took their concerns to the Wilde Lake Village Board and to the Howard County Planning and Zoning Department, which began looking into the situation to see whether the Columbia Association overstepped its authority by shifting the tee without approval.

About two weeks ago, the association offered the Pooles a choice: It would move the tee or provide about $2,000 worth of landscaping between the Pooles' home and the tee.

"We're trying to be sensitive," said Robert Goldman, director of membership services for the association, the nonprofit organization that oversees recreational facilities and services in Columbia.

The landscaping would have provided pine barriers, he said. But the Pooles sided with neighbors and chose to have the tee moved.

"We took the mound of earth and moved it a couple hundred yards away in an inconspicuous place," Mr. Goldman said.

The change pleased the Pooles. "The association responded in a positive way," Mr. Poole said.

Set to open Sept. 2, the 205-acre golf course is projected to attract as many as 50,000 golfers a year. The $5.5 million project will be the county's fifth golf course.

There long has been opposition to the course before and after its approval by the Columbia Council in 1993.

Neighbors say environmental protection and landscaping have been lacking during construction. This spring, the association annoyed residents by erecting a 1,000-foot-long, chain-link fence between the course and Hannibal Grove townhouses.

Residents accused the association of going behind their backs when the 13th tee was shifted. But Mr. Goldman said that it's not uncommon for golf course measurements to be off once construction begins.

Though tees average $2,000 to build from scratch, the Columbia Association didn't lose much, if any, money by moving the 13th tee. That hole was built 20 years ago as part of the Allview Golf Course. The association thought it practical to use the existing -- 13th tee in the new course.

The latest shift in the location of the 13th tee is a victory for residents. "I'm happy," Mr. Poole said.

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