Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Leggett proposes reprieve on closing Sligo Creek Golf Course - Gazette

Additional time will allow more thoughtful study of uses for Silver Spring site

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Residents who have pleaded with the county to keep Sligo Creek Golf Course open after its scheduled closing on Oct. 1 might get their wish if an idea by the county executive to keep the course open for as long as two more years is approved by the council

County Executive Isiah Leggett's proposal, sent to the Montgomery County Council today, would require a $150,000 operating subsidy to keep the course open for up to 24 months after the scheduled closing date, said Leggett spokesman Patrick K. Lacefield.

The course would remain under the auspices of the Montgomery County Revenue Authority and a task force would form to determine how to make a golf course at Sligo Creek profitable.

"This is some breathing space for the community," Lacefield said in a phone interview this afternoon.

An independent study earlier this year ruled the course was a financial drain on the county golf system.

The $150,000 would only handle operating costs and there are no plans for capital improvements, Lacefield said. The appropriation would likely be approved in the time between the end of the council's recess, Sept. 15, and the course's closing date two weeks later.

The task force would include representatives from the Revenue Authority, Park and Planning, county government and the community and be formed sometime next month, Lacefield said. The group would "develop options for the continued, self-sustaining operation of the Sligo Creek Golf Course," Leggett wrote in a letter to the council.

Lacefield said Leggett has contacted the Revenue Authority about the program and "there's not a doubt they would agree to change the lease" if the appropriation is approved.

Revenue Authority Executive Director Keith Miller could not immediately be reached for comment.

Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring sent a letter to Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson today asking for the board to include golf in the master plan study for future use of the land. On July 16, the board decided that Park and Planning should not "expend its time and effort" to consider golf as an option because it had no authority to allow golf at the course according to the lease agreement with the Revenue Authority.

The County Council ruled in April that the Revenue Authority could back out of its lease to operate Sligo Creek because the course is failing financially. Park and Planning was scheduled to operate the land, which it owns, and a master plan study is already under way to determine a new use for the land because of no-compete clause in the Revenue Authority's lease.

Ervin said today that the task force might determine that a course cannot be run profitably at Sligo Creek and the county would be faced with the same dilemma of what to do with the site in another year or two. But the proposal at least ensures the proper thought and effort will go into Sligo Creek, Ervin said.

And residents who have long demanded the course remain open know the additional time will improve the chances of the 50-year-old golf course living on, but the fight isn't over yet.

"We know we have a lot of work to do and a lot of alternatives to consider," said Woody Brosnan, president of the nearby North Woodside-Montgomery Hills Citizens Association. "But many feared that if the course closed Oct. 1 that we would never have a chance to pursue any alternatives."

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