Golf Course Houses Get Initial Approval

By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 21, 2008

The owners of Twin Shields Golf Course in Dunkirk have received preliminary approval from Calvert County officials to build more than 50 houses there, ultimately closing the 40-year-old private facility.

Karen Shields Keen and Diane Shields Allen, the daughters of one of the twin brothers who founded the course in 1968, plan to develop the Lakes at Twin Shields, a 51-house community with an average lot size of 1.62 acres.

The Calvert Planning Commission gave its initial approval for the subdivision Wednesday, despite concerns from neighbors that the development would exacerbate traffic problems in the area.

One longtime Twin Shields golfer mourned the prospective loss of the 18-hole facility, one of only two in the county.

"Don't let it go away. You are making a big mistake," said William Newman, who has been golfing at "the Shields's place" for many years.

Keen said the course would remain open for "at least seven years," the time it could potentially take to clear county regulations that prohibit new subdivisions if roads and schools that serve the property are over capacity.

Keen declined to comment further on the plans after the commission's meeting.

Currently, Northern High School is too crowded, said Gregory Bowen, the county's director of planning. The subdivision could not be built until that situation is relieved. If that doesn't happen within seven years, the subdivision could be built anyway under county law, he said.

Twin Shields was built by Ray and Roy Shields, identical twins who were born in Kentucky in 1916. They operated several area courses before acquiring 300 acres of tobacco farmland in Calvert to fulfill their dream of building a golf course, according to the club's Web site.

Ray Shields died in 1980 and his brother in 1998. Roy Shields's daughters own the course.

Preliminary plans for the Lakes at Twin Shields call for two entrances from Shields Drive. Some of the golf course's ponds and rolling hills would be used for open space and recreation for the new subdivision, according to the plans.

Several neighbors raised concerns regarding traffic and expressed frustration about trying unsuccessfully to get the owners and developers to meet with them to discuss their concerns.

"It has been a very smooth process for [Keen] with no speed bumps," said Cynthia Junker, who represented the Lyons Creek Hundred community at Wednesday's meeting. "We knew this was a foregone conclusion."

The property is zoned for residential use so there were no county restrictions on its use. In addition, there is no county requirement that adjoining property owners be notified if such plans are in the works.

"I really hate to see the golf course go," planning Commissioner Laben McCartney said, "but folks have the right to do with their property as they see fit."

Paul Hallisay, whose house sits along the 13th hole, said the owners shouldn't be able to develop the land "at the expense or detriment of the already established community." Hallisay said he was concerned the county was overlooking environmental issues.

Neighbors also said they were concerned about traffic on Shields Drive. Junker said there already is heavy traffic from a county soccer field not far away. Two other subdivisions are in the area.

Neighbor Charles Spicknall predicted there will be serious traffic accidents at the soccer field entrance if more development is allowed. "There is going to be a catastrophic event that occurs," Spicknall said.

Michael Lenhart of Lenhart Traffic Consulting, who was hired by the developer, Twin Shields Partnership, said traffic would be reduced in the area once the golf course is closed.

"I'm comfortable that all of Shields Drive would operate at a level A," or the highest level of service under state guidelines, Lenhart said.

The commission asked David Humphreys, the Planning Commission administrator, to contact the county parks and recreation department about reconfiguring the field to reduce backup and traffic on Shields Drive.

The commission could have asked the developer for an environmental impact statement but decided against it. Edward C. Gibbs Jr., representing Twin Shields Partnership, said the impact statement "is not necessary in this case" because the lots to be developed won't be in environmentally sensitive areas.

County planners, however, would require the developer to install nitrogen-removing septic systems for 15 houses close to streams. The developers have three years to file for final site approval from the Planning Commission. The county Board of Commissioners also would have to approve the plan.

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