$185,000 budget addition is likely for Hobbit's Glen clubhouse renovation


The clubhouse of Hobbit's Glen Golf Club appears likely to be renovated during the nine months the course is expected to be closed to rebuild its damaged greens.

The Columbia Association's board of directors agreed Thursday night to put $185,000 into the proposed fiscal 2004 capital budget for renovation of the clubhouse.

In a 6-3 straw vote - with one member abstaining - the board approved $10,000 for a study to evaluate the repairs and to set aside $175,000 for the possible upgrades.

The clubhouse upgrade was part of the $450,000 in projects that the board added to the proposed capital budget during a work session Thursday night. That money includes $255,000 to renovate Historic Oakland, an 1811 manor home that serves as Town Center's community building.

The board also voted to reduce the association's contingency fund from $200,000 to $100,000.

The additional projects bring the capital budget to $7.8 million. The board is scheduled to vote on the association's entire $45.8 million budget Feb. 19 or 20.

The capital budget includes $679,000 to rebuild 16 greens and replace the grass on four at Hobbit's Glen. The net business loss from closing the course would be $529,000.

During the renovation, the course would close in August and reopen in May 2004, depending on the weather.

The additional funding to repair the Hobbit's Glen clubhouse was agreed on after Dave Leonard, chairman of the Hobbit's Glen/Fairway Hills Golf Committee, requested at a public hearing Jan. 22 on the Columbia Association budget that the board consider renovating the clubhouse.

Leonard told the board that needed improvements include renovating the front entrance, installing a sprinkler system and adding restaurant seating.

Rob Goldman, Columbia Association's vice president for sport and fitness, told the board Thursday that an important part of the clubhouse renovation would include upgrading the locker rooms. He said the women's locker room is small and in the club's basement, while the men's locker room is upstairs and much larger.

One solution might be to place both locker rooms upstairs and make them equal in size, he said.

Board member Pearl Atkinson-Stewart of Owen Brown said it seemed appropriate to renovate the clubhouse while the course is closed, to make the club as "attractive as possible."

Board member Wolfger Schneider of Harper's Choice - who voted against the clubhouse renovation - noted that "an awful lot of money is going into the golf course." The association subsidizes most of its facilities, he said, but the board needs to ask, " 'Exactly where should the subsidies go?' "

Schneider said it appears that the association puts more money toward facilities that service "those who have, not those who don't."

Goldman said renovating the club would result in a "substantial return" on the investment. He estimated that the golf course would bring in about $500,000 a year once the greens were repaired. Board Chairman Miles Coffman pointed out that in the proposed 2004 budget, 8.9 percent of the assessment and interest income subsidy goes toward the sports and fitness facilities, and 44.2 percent goes toward open space management, which all residents can enjoy at no cost.

Stewart said the club is among many association amenities for "a variety of people to have a variety of choices."

"It's a misconception that only wealthy people play golf," she said.

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