Phil MacWilliams, president of the Coquelin Run Citizens Association, said the 40 or so residents whose homes abut the Purple Line alignment east of Connecticut Avenue would love to have the state’s assurances of sound walls in a legally binding document.
“I think it’s great the country club can secure these concessions and promises, but what about the rest of us without the same clout or resources?” MacWilliams said.
The document states that the people who signed it, including the state’s top two Purple Line planners and Montgomery’s director of transportation, will “confine all future public statements” about the agreement to this: “The Columbia Country Club, Maryland Transit Administration and Montgomery County have entered into an agreement that resolves various issues relating to the planning, design and construction of the Purple Line and Capital Crescent Trail Project.’”
Maryland transportation officials declined to say even that much. “The agreement speaks for itself,” MTA spokeswoman Erin Henson wrote in an e-mail.
She later added that the MTA works with “a range of property owners” while planning transit projects. “We work to make reasonable accommodations and rely on property owner input to determine if there are ways to balance everyone’s goals,” Henson wrote. The agreement, she said, “reflects a consensus view that we need to move toward solutions and not default to hard and fast positions.”
Henson said the state is “in discussions” with other property owners, but this is the only legal agreement. The changes through the golf course do not add any costs to the project’s $2.2 billion budget, she said.
Montgomery County officials declined to comment.
“The agreement speaks for itself,” county spokesman Patrick Lacefield wrote in an e-mail.
Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda), who chairs the council’s transportation committee and whose district includes the country club, said he did not know about the agreement until The Post contacted him Wednesday.
He said he had not had a chance to read it but said, “Presumably, it’s in the public interest.”
“The country club has historically been a vigorous opponent of the Purple Line,” Berliner said. “Litigation could have tied this project up.”
Ben Ross, a longtime Purple Line advocate, agreed. “The country club has always been the main obstacle to building a Purple Line,” Ross said. “To get this out of the way, it’s extremely well worth it.”
As part of the agreement, the club promised not to criticize or demonstrate against a transit line. Columbia Country Club President Geoff Gonella, who signed the document, said Wednesday that he could say only that the agreement “resolves various issues.”
He said the club has had lawyers and consultants review Purple Line plans but said no decision had been made about possible legal action before the agreement was signed.
In a June 24 letter to members, obtained by The Post, Gonella wrote that the agreement “provides several important concessions to the club” that would preserve part of the golf course south of a Purple Line alignment.
“We will have to relocate the 14th green and may have to reorient the 2nd fairway,” the letter said. “We have had our golf course architect review the changes, and he is confident the modifications can be accomplished, and may even enhance the course.”
The agreement also states that the MTA will build the two golf-cart underpasses and stage construction “so that the course remains open at all times,” Gonella wrote.
Gonella’s letter notes that the club, its officers and its governors agreed to “not do anything to oppose the project going forward.” It added that “members remain free to oppose the project in their individual capacities or as part of other groups and in any manner they see fit.”
Montgomery County bought the trail land in 1988 from the B&O Railroad as part of plans for a future trolley line between Bethesda and Silver Spring. The golf course was designed around the railroad, which opened in 1909, according to a state Purple Line study. The club opened at its current location in 1911, according to its Web site.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated that the Purple Line has no construction funding. This version has been corrected.