Tees, greens misplaced, golf neighbors claim


With just six weeks left to opening day, the long-standing battle over the Columbia Association's new 18-hole golf course near Wilde Lake village rages on as nearby residents are charging again that tees and greens have been misplaced near their properties.

Some of the new golf course's neighbors claim that four tees on the 13th hole on Ten Mills Road have been placed in sites different from the original plans of the Columbia Association (CA) and much closer to their residences. They want CA to move those tees and also a green that they say was shifted on the 14th hole back to their original planned locations.

Robert Goldman, director of CA's membership services and in charge of developing the course, acknowledges that changes at the 205-acre Fairway Hills Golf Course were made after CA first had its plans approved by the county. "We try to be as open and sensitive to the neighbors as possible," he said.

But neighbors tell a different story. "I don't like the idea that these people are so presumptuous that they think they can do whatever they want because they are CA," said Saundra Bates, who believes a green on the 14th hole was moved about 25 feet closer to her 22-year home on Starsplit Lane. "Now it's like looking down the barrel of a shotgun."

The county wants CA to submit revised plans so it can determine how much CA deviated from its original plan.

"Unfortunately, I'm at the same disadvantage" as residents, said Joseph W. Rutter Jr., director of the Department of Planning and Zoning.

Mr. Goldman said that engineers are measuring the course to get exact distances and that CA will submit revised plans for the 10th to 18th holes within 30 days. CA will submit plans for the other holes 30 days later.

Mr. Goldman said he has never heard of golf course developers having to submit revised plans. "We thought as long as we are sensitive to the environment and residents, changes like that would be OK," he said. "We were wrong."

But golf course developers are required to comply with the process, Mr. Rutter said, adding that CA should have submitted revised plans before making changes.

The course's first nine holes are scheduled to open on Sept. 2 and the other nine are to open in the spring, Mr. Goldman said.

The latest complaints from neighbors come after residents James and Audrey Poole won a small victory earlier this month. Concerned about safety and privacy, they asked CA to move a tee that had been shifted to less than 20 feet from their rear deck on Ten Mills Road.

At first the nonprofit association refused to move the tee. But after residents complained to the village board and the county: CA offered to provide $2,000 worth of landscaping screening or move the tee -- the option chosen by the Pooles.

Nearby residents contend there are other misplaced course features.

Other residents on Ten Mills Road say four tees that were repositioned on that same 13th hole need to be moved back to their original sites. One of these tees is 15 feet closer than originally planned to the property of Pamela McKusick, who lives on Ten Mills Road. Unlike the Pooles, she said CA has never offered to change the tee location.

Virginia Scott, who lives on Whetstone Road, has listed five pages of deviations from the course's approved plans. They include disturbance to flood plains, shifts in cart paths and shifts or additions to tees on the sixth, 13th, and 14th holes.

The neighbors are not the only ones noticing changes.

On Tuesday, erosion and sediment inspectors saw pathway and tee shifts, said David Hammerman, county licensing director. But without instruments they couldn't determine how far the shifts were from the original site plan.

Mr. Goldman said the battle, led by a handful of neighbors for the last three years, is costly. "It's costing the Columbia community thousands of dollars," he said, referring to the expenses from revisions.

But neighbors say CA is being unreasonable. "It's just like we're invisible," Mrs. McKusick said. "We're not invisible."

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