Fun center is source of contention Long Reach board divided on issue EAST COLUMBIA

September 29, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

A Long Reach village board member said she opposes a proposal to build a "family fun center" at Dobbin Road and Tamar Drive because the site is near a rental housing community known for drug activity.

But even though the board voted to oppose the proposal months ago, it is "not necessarily unanimous" on the issue, said Phil Blustein, board vice chairman.

Building an amusement center at the 6.5-acre site next to Long Reach Park and near the village center could attract "bad influences," said board member Nancy D. Smith.

"We're concerned about what type of element it might bring into the village," she said. "I don't see this as being a good location unless they can clean up the drug problem."

The debate over where to locate a family fun center -- if anywhere in Columbia -- moves to Long Reach village tonight. Rob Goldman, Columbia Association vice president, will discuss the proposal at a special public meeting at 7:30 p.m. at the Locust Park Neighborhood Center.

The fun center would include an outdoor 36-hole miniature golf course, outdoor softball and hardball batting cages, a picnic area and a small clubhouse with a snack bar and games.

The Hickory Ridge village board, which asked the CA to pursue a fun center for its community, reversed itself in March, voting against such a center after residents voiced concerns about noise, traffic, loitering and property values.

The Long Reach village board also informed the CA that the community didn't want a fun center before the proposal was presented to Hickory Ridge last spring.

Ms. Smith said the board's position probably hasn't changed. "There's a feeling now that it's not wanted by residents," she said. "Everybody likes it, but nobody wants it in their backyard. But if we get feedback from residents that they want it and will use it, fine, we'll go ahead."

Mr. Goldman said he wants to discuss the idea to get reaction from Long Reach residents. "Long Reach was concerned with increased traffic, but that was 1 1/2 years ago," he said. "That's why we're going back out -- to see if it's something they'd like to have."

Mr. Blustein said he's "open to consideration."

Long Reach now is the most feasible option for the project -- which the CA began planning about two years ago -- because the proposed site is not "immediately adjacent" to residences and is compatible with the nearby ball fields, Mr. Goldman said.

Also, marketing studies show it's important to locate the facility along fairly busy roads, such as Tamar Drive and Dobbin Road, he said.

Ms. Smith said building a facility with lights and benches at an already busy intersection could exacerbate drug problems in the surrounding area.

Sgt. Gary Gardner, a county police spokesman, said there have been drug cases and arrests at an Airy Brink Lane rental community near the proposed site. But drug activity in that area has been no worse than in a number of other Columbia neighborhoods, he said.

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