Decision comes after 3 years of fighting

Updated: December 26, 2004, 1:46 PM ET

SAN ANTONIO -- After nearly three years of fighting between environmentalists and developers, a world-class golf course over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone appears poised for smooth passage when the City Council votes on it in January.

"Essentially, a fait accompli is going to be presented to the citizens and the citizens can respond, but this looks like a done deal," said Larry Hufford, a St. Mary's University political scientist.

Officials from the PGA Tour, developer Lumbermen's Investment Corp. and hotelier Marriott International were in San Antonio on Thursday, saying they had an agreement "in principle" to build the golf course resort. Mayor Ed Garza called the project a "win-win-win" for the city.

Two public hearings are scheduled for early January. The City Council is expected to vote at the Jan. 6 public hearing.

Opposition was vocal during an earlier similarly proposed project, but opposition to this project has been subdued.

"The opposition is still there, but the fight now is almost a feeling of helplessness that the thing is going to go through," said Faye Sinkin, an activist who has been fighting development over the Edwards Aquifer for nearly three decades.

The proposed project would sit on 2,855 acres of land in northern Bexar County.

The PGA Tour has committed to a Tournament Players Club with a minimum of two 18-hole golf courses, and Marriott will build an 800-room luxury hotel.

Supporters are hopeful that stronger environmental controls and a living wage of $10 an hour will allay concerns by those who opposed two earlier attempts at bringing professional golf to the area.

Among the stronger environmental regulations, developers have agreed to reduce impervious cover to 15 percent, which proponents say means about 2,500 fewer houses, in exchange for not being annexed into the city for 25 years.

Hufford also said may of the people who opposed the first project now realize the land will be developed, regardless of resistance.

Also, planning public hearings and a council vote during the holiday season will likely lead to sparse participation, observers say.

"It's not a time when you're going to have a lot of organized opposition," Hufford said.