So, can I have the three hours of my life back that I spent at the Park & Planning Commission meeting last night? (Read twitter updates here.) After watching a presentation (PDF) from the board outlining alternative uses for the Sligo Creek Golf Course, attendees heard statements from 39 speakers who, for the most part, were vehement supporters of continuing to operate the golf course as a golf course. One guy even threatened to move out of the county if the golf course is replaced. Each of the pro-golf statements was met with rousing applause from those in attendance.
Unfortunately, immediately following all these heartfelt presentations the board proceed to reaffirm its plans to convert the golf course to some other use. According to the board, they have zero power to actually keep the course open and the meeting was held strictly to consider other options. Perhaps this is true, but it's probably something they should have made clear at the beginning of the meeting. Failure to do so led to some outbursts that were met with angry gavel banging by the board's chairman. They probably should have just let it go at that, but one board member proceeded to state that people are just upset because they are "used to" the course, as it became comfortable like an "old shoe", implying, I guess, that it really ought to be replaced with something better. That particular statement went over particularly well with the audience, as you might imagine.
I can't believe that the whole golf course replacement process is being railroaded through the system with little consideration for those who actually live near the course and use it regularly. It seems like everything else the county does takes ages, since apparently for those projects community input is paramount. Case in point: the new Silver Spring Civic Center. They recently got around to building it after years of discussion, charettes and input from the "community". Why do you think we had the so-called "Turf" for so long? Another example: the library. How long have we been discussing this building and considering dozens of prospective designs? At least ten years, I would guess. In many of these instances the "community" consists of the same five people who show up to every meeting. Last night we had a standing room only crowd of residents who passionately supported the golf course, but who were essentially told, "too bad, so sad" by the planning board.
Hell, there's more county involvement in the stupid $700K library bridge that only a small fraction (the voting portion?) of library patrons really need to begin with. Even the county executive has taken a strong position on the bridge issue. Who in Rockville is fighting for the thousands of people who enjoy Sligo Creek Golf course? Can you imagine if they tried to take away a golf course in Bethesda or Chevy Chase? There would be legions of lawyers headed up 355 to stop the action. Look at their reaction when someone proposed running light rail near their precious country club on land that the county already owns. Maybe The Poors down here in Silver Spring aren't worth the county's precious time or funding. Perhaps it's hard to conceptualize that a fancy sport like golf might be played east of Chevy Chase.
This whole deal is so sketchy and opaque that I'm inclined to buy in to some of the CON...spiracy theories I've heard floating around this situation. Will we be seeing the Sligo Creek Golf Condos in a few years?
So here are the facts, at least as I understand them. It doesn't take a Vulcan to see that logically the Sligo Creek Golf Course was doomed from the moment an agreement was signed with the Revenue Authority:
- The county signed over the management rights to a facility that can, according to the RA, only be run profitably with a driving range. (Did no one do the math beforehand??)
- The RA did not have the right to build the driving without county approval.
- The county would not approve these changes without buy in from "the community".
- The community would never agree to these changes.
- The RA will dump a course that it believes cannot be run profitably.
- If the course is returned to the county, it cannot be run as a golf course according to the county's 30 year (!) agreement with the RA, which effectively means the course can never be used again.
According to their website, the RA claims to be "dedicated to providing services, products, and opportunities of value that offer enrichment to the community". They must have left out the "when profitable" or "for wealthy citizens only" part.
So, what can you do? SaveSligoGolf.com has a great page with relevant contact emails. Just don't stay on the sidelines. Remember, if they take away golf now, it's never coming back. I don't even play golf myself, but I always just took it for granted that I'd pick it up eventually, seeing that I had Sligo Creek Golf Course within walking distance of my house.
Not that you should need the motivation, but I'll leave you with this. The seniors part is appropriate.