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Harford's golf gambit County's pitch shot: Luxury golf complex offers hope for green, but big questions remain.


A GOLF COURSE can be a most desirable private open-space development: lightly used greenway, steady property and concessions tax revenues, a generally quiet and controlled clientele, and little public expense.

Small wonder that Harford County officials think they've scored an economic hole-in-one with a Pennsylvania developer's announced plans for a $30 million golf course complex on 550 rural acres just west of Havre de Grace.

Especially since Harford leaders were so strongly opposed to an earlier plan for a motor sports racetrack on the land, which they feared would be noisy, draw large crowds and require considerable outlay for rebuilding access roads.

The problem is in the follow-through. Harford County Executive Eileen Rehrmann criticized the racetrack idea because it would preclude a better use of the property off U.S. 40 for light industry. How two upscale golf courses fit that description, we can't understand.

There is a need for more public golf courses in the area. A new small course near Aberdeen just opened and there is serious talk of opening Ruggles Golf Course on Aberdeen Proving Ground to public play. That will help.

The two championship golf courses envisioned for Blenheim Farms, with proposed $100-a-round greens fees, will hardly address that local recreation need. Those links are aimed at drawing big-dollar golf tourists.

With rare exception, that kind of attraction needs other economic enterprises to support it: expensive housing along fairways, a first-class clubhouse restaurant, resort or conference facilities. Continuing, substantial investment over the years is also essential.

Because of local fears and opposition, the developer is steering clear of plans for residential housing, grand hotels or a dining room to compete with established restaurants.

Zoning exceptions and environmental variances are still needed DTC for this proposal, but the idea has strong state and local support.

Harford can only hope that the plan succeeds, that it eventually lands professional tournaments. But odds are that further on-site economic developments will be needed. And that will lead back to questions raised last year about the best, proper use of this valuable open land. This project isn't out of the rough yet.

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