Friday, July 17, 2009

Silgo Creek Golf Course - Update from the Planning Board Meeting

The following, from Stephen C. Brown,appears under "Recent News" on the Facebook group, Preserve Sligo Creek Golf Course.

***The July 16 meeting: All seats were filled. As many people were standing as seated. WTOP, the Gazette and Channel 8 were there. Pro-golf testimony was excellent. If you spoke last night, don't throw your notes away. We didn't get the answer we wanted, but I would urge anyone feeling disappointed to consider just how encouraging the meeting was.

The disappointing part: the Planning Board directed Parks staff to continue exploring alternate uses since they thought it unrealistic to count on the lease being re-negotiated. Parks and Planning lack the authority to renegotiate the lease themselves, and wondered out loud about the likelihood that the County Council would reconsider its policy not to subsidize golf.

However, Council staff were present. They heard hours of eloquent, heart-felt, intelligent testimony from both golfers and non-golfers wishing to save the golf course. They heard the boisterous audience. They heard Director of Parks Mary Bradford defend her decision to have kept golf as a "marker" in the re-use exploration despite Parks' unwillingness to ignore the no-compete clause. The Council, she said (and I paraphrase), may decide Sligo is a unique situation requiring a special exception to the policy not to subsidize golf. (Anyone distracted by her unfortunate "old shoe" analogy should consider her statement in its entirety. She was far from dismissive.)

Not having persuaded Parks and Planning to take a firm stance in defense of Sligo golf was a little like watching an excellent drive land in a bunker. It's still a good drive. We're still in play. Contact the County Council--especially if you were among last night's excellent speakers.

I was in the back of the room last night, and couldn't hear every speaker's name. Moreover, my notes are inadequate to honor all the excellent testimony. That said:

Special thanks to:

Delegate Alfred Carr, who testified that he would monitor the situation and warned against losing this invaluable amenity;

Jeffrey Russell for his impassioned opening salvo establishing that golf is an act of environmental stewardship, especially when compared to proposed alternatives; and for his impassioned plea at night's end to "CONTACT THE COUNCIL IMMEDIATELY!"

Woody Brosnan, for finding the parallel between the individual ethics of golf and the individual ethics of environmental stewardship--and for his rallying cry to "Listen to the people! Listen to the taxpayer!"

Peter A(?), who pointed out that it's less expensive to keep the course open than to re-open it;

Karen Goozner, who found compelling rhetorical power in obvious truth: "It doesn't make sense!" Karen indicated readiness to lay down in front of a bulldozer;

Jim Kiebom, a veteran golfer who has played some of the world's the finest courses, but testified that Sligo is the best value he has yet encountered;

Spencer More, who instructed the board on the axiom of not fixing what isn't broken;

Mike Welch, who pointed out that alternate uses proposed by residents from elsewhere in the county are "a little rich. If I advocated for soccer fields in Takoma Park, they'd have a stroke;"

[?] O'Hara, whose family plays both soccer and golf, but, if forced to choose, would support golf at Sligo; who also pointed out that the proposed nature preserve where kids can play would be redundant, as anyone would notice while driving along Sligo Creek Parkway;

John Taylor, who, having installed on his own dime irrigation on six of Sligo's holes, spoke with authority about the overstated costs of capital improvement;

Coco [with-whom-I-shared-a-beer-afterward-but-whose-last-name-I-still-don't-know], who pointed out that the proposed closure has been strangely under-publicized and that public will on the issue cannot properly have been measured;

Melanie Hennigan, the self-described aging athlete who plays in three soccer leagues and testified to the existing availability of soccer fields, who wants golf as an option whenever age limits her from soccer; who, as an architect, warned against the environmentally detrimental effect of re-landscaping; who exhorted the board, "You can't let this happen! You're better than this! The County is better than this!"

Christine Patrick, of the South Four Corners Citizens Group, whose neighborhood (Argyle) both in name and activity identifies itself with Sligo Golf; who drew an uproar of support when she pointed out that the proposed alternative uses had not been weighed against the needs of the area;

The Officer of the Sligo Ladies' Golf League, which has been playing year round for 25 years, who was offended by the prospect of being denied this resource, who called for a new audit of Sligo finances;

[?] Abrams, who golfs Sligo with his boys of 13 and 15, and, echoing the idea of golf as instructing individual ethics, offered the touching anecdote about his 13 yo spontaneously replacing a divot out of a desire to preserve the beauty of the course;

Joseph Hibbeln, with whom I shared a beer after, who spoke persuasively about the irresponsibility of acting only on "one bid", that of the MCRA; we now have second bid, the numbers presented by Mark Suffanti and Minor Sachless, but in government you need a third, to which end the course ought to be kept open for a year to properly track finances;

Andy Freeman, who, when one of the commissioners asked fellow board members if Parks had ever given a golf course back to the community, yelled from the back of the room, "We'll take it!"

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