Sunday, September 28, 2008

Golf course owners cool to advisory board suggestions - Gazette

by Amber Parcher | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008

A citizens advisory committee that met over the summer to study ways to keep Sligo Creek Golf Course financially viable against any drastic changes such as a driving range or miniature golf course and instead recommended promoting the golf course as is.

The committee was formed in April to help advise the Montgomery County Revenue Authority, the owner of the Sligo Creek facility and others in the county, about how to jumpstart the ailing golf course.

But the group's laissez-faire approach, presented to the revenue authority board members on Tuesday, did not impress some board members, who had suggested the driving range and miniature golf course in January as a way to help bring in money.

Board members said the report did not have any profitable solutions.

"I don't see anything in this report that would really enhance the revenue," board member Steve Edwards told Bruce Sidwell, the chairman of the advisory group.

The revenue authority has been leasing the Sligo Creek Golf Course from Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission since 2006. The course was — and still is — losing money, said revenue authority Director Keith Miller. It was projected to lose $170,000 in fiscal 2008.

"It's not performing well; it hasn't been performing well," Miller said.

But a driving range or miniature golf course would be harmful to the surrounding environment and disrupt residents in the neighborhoods around it, Sidwell said. The advisory group instead proposed marketing Sligo Creek as a small, nine-hole course that would be friendly for recreational use and learning.

Sidwell and other advisory group members said by scaling back on various small expenses, such as mowing and fertilizers, the course could save money while retaining its original character.

"There's no one magic plan," said Silver Spring resident and advisory group member Heather Phipps.

Another board member, Peter Gray, said putting in a driving range would increase the course's reputation as a learning facility.

"You learn on a driving range," Gray said. He said he thought the report was "unrealistic" in its approach to make the golf course profitable without any major changes.

Edwards reminded the advisory group and the board that the revenue authority could always return the course to M-NCPPC if they couldn't come to an agreement.

But Sidwell maintained the report gives the revenue authority some smaller, feasible options to think about.

"[The report] isn't tit for tat … but it certainly colors the way you look at the problem," Sidwell said.

There are no other meetings or public hearings planned in the near future to discuss the golf course.

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