It may be called Columbia Hills, but its residents want no part of what Columbia is offering them.
Residents of the 357-home communityare fighting the Columbia Association's plans for a 4.7-acre maintenance building on the edge of Columbia and right in Columbia Hills' backyard.
"This project was such a secret that even our county councilman was not aware of it," said Richard Ely, treasurer of the Columbia Hills-Meadowbrook Community Association.
Ely, who lives about 400 feetfrom the proposed site, spoke last Thursday to members of the Columbia Council, who govern the Columbia Association, urging them to look for another site.
The facility would house offices and a maintenance garage for the association's Open Space Management division, whichmows lawns and maintains more than 2,000 acres of Columbia's open space.
At issue are the pollution, noise and traffic that residents expect will come from the 65 vehicles, including 25 dump trucks, to be serviced at the facility.
Traffic is of special concern because the neighborhood has only two access points: Edgar Road, where the facility is planned, and Sybert Drive, which will be closed as part of the new Route 100-U.S. 29 interchange under construction.
An alternate route is planned to the north, but so far neither the state nor the county has agreed to pay for its construction.
The CA staff argues that most of 9-acre parcel being considered will remain wetlands, with trees to shield the maintenance building from the view of Columbia Hills homes. Parking areas will be further shielded by a 10-footwooden walls.
Residents respond that during winter months, when the trees will be barren, the large trucks will be visible over the walls and their noise heard across the wetland area.
Association representatives also noted that the project had been in the works since last year and had gone through hearings before the association.
"This has been in the budget process and the pre-budget process," whichare both public, said Evelyn Richardson, council vice-chairwoman andrepresentative of Dorsey's Search village.
Representatives from the Columbia Association attempted to give a presentation about the plan to about 200 Columbia Hills residents Oct. 22, but never finished because of repeated interruptions, said Fred Pryor, association vice president and director of Open Space Management.
"The crowd was angry at the fact that they hadn't been allowed any input up to this time," said County Councilman Darrel Drown, R-2nd, who moderated the meeting but also expressed his opposition to the plan.
"The problem is that it's new town next to non-new town," said Drown, referring tothe county zoning designation given to all property the Rouse Co. purchased in the 1960s to build the city of Columbia.
Planning for the facility "went through the normal Columbia channels, but they don't deal with people outside of Columbia," Drown added. "I feel that these people deserve to be heard and express themselves."
Drown saidhe would like to see the association look for a more suitable site, one that is closer to the center of Columbia and not next to a residential neighborhood.
But Pryor said the CA's choices were limited by what the Rouse Co., which donated the land to the association last year, had available.
Because the property is in the unique New Town zoning designation, it is subject to less zoning board scrutiny than other county land. The board is made up of the five County Council members.
"If a private group was to ask for an M2 (heavy manufacturing) zoning, I can't think of any circumstances where we would put it right next to a residential neighborhood," Drown said.