Neighbors argue for, against alcohol sales along new Columbia golf course


Some residents living near Columbia's new Fairway Hills Golf Course told the Columbia Council last night that it would be morally wrong to allow golfers to consume alcohol throughout the entire 204-acre course. They urged that drinking be restricted to the clubhouse.

But other course neighbors and golf advocates said giving responsible adults the option to drink a beer or wine cooler along the course is part of the sport's culture, and that it's the Columbia Association's financial responsibility to permit such activity if it brings in revenue. The nonprofit quasi-governmental body charges property owners to oversee recreational facilities and social programs.

The council -- the association's elected board of directors -- took no action after hearing the arguments, essentially leaving the association's liquor license request intact. That request, set for a third hearing before the Howard County Liquor Board on Oct. 10, would allow alcohol consumption and sales -- possibly by mobile carts -- along the course, which borders many homes in Wilde Lake and Dorsey's Search villages.

Several council members suggested a policy that would allow golfers to take alcohol on the course but prohibit sales from mobile carts -- a policy recommended by the association's recreational facilities director. Some members suggested a provision precluding the policy from being reversed in the near future. However, the council declined to vote on it.

Councilwoman Norma Rose, supporting residents from her Wilde Lake village, proposed amending the liquor license to restrict alcohol sales and consumption to the clubhouse of the 18-hole course, which opened Sept. 2. No other council members supported her position.

Some Wilde Lake residents abutting the course have fought the controversial $5.5 million project for years, saying holes are too close to their homes. Mario Jorquera brought to the meeting a bag of golf balls he said had been hit into his back yard.

Residents still objected vehemently to the liquor license plans, saying the association is setting a bad example for children and shouldn't encourage alcohol use. They also said they feared inebriated golfers would send errant shots into their gardens.

"CA is a community, a family community," said Louis Marmo, a course neighbor. "CA isn't in the business of selling alcohol."

Doug Wilson, chairman of an association golf advisory committee, disagreed. "Choice for our clients is what the Columbia Association is all about as well as respect for property," he said.

He said the association indeed is in the business of selling alcohol at events and the Hobbits Glen Golf Club, and that options shouldn't be limited unless problems arise.

Robert Goldman, the association's recreational director, and several council members said golf courses nationwide allow alcohol on the links, and noted that many golfers don't drink while playing.

Those reasons aren't justification, Ms. Rose said. "I don't see how that answers the question: How does it serve CA's interests?" she said.

The council meets Sept. 28 -- before the liquor board hearing -- but Mr. Goldman said it might be too late by then to amend the application.

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