Council OKs revised rec fees Non-residents to pay more to use Columbia facilities

November 13, 1992|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Staff Writer

In Friday's Howard section, an article about the proposed Kendall Ridge pool should have said that planning for the pool is expected to cost $75,000.

The Sun regrets the errors.

An article in the Howard section Friday described incompletely Columbia Council member Fran Wishnick's proposal to limit the types of recreation facility memberships to non-Columbia residents. Ms. Wishnick's proposal would have banned new sales of the most popular types of memberships -- called Package Plans -- in Columbia's recreational facilities to people who don't pay Columbia's annual property assessment.

The Sun regrets the error.

The Columbia Council agreed last night to widen the margin between what non-residents and residents pay for memberships at its recreational facilities.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

The council also decided to delay its decision on the controversial proposal to build a $5.5 million golf course. The council wants to wait until it hears testimony from environmental experts on what effect the course would have on wetlands and a forest on the proposed site in Town Center. That testimony has been scheduled for the council's Nov. 24 meeting.

Meanwhile, council members at a special planning session agreed to back a proposal by Norma Rose that would require non-residents to pay a minimum of $250 more than residents when purchasing the most common membership plans, called package plans.

Council members agreed the proposal was the best way to enhance revenues and show Columbians that their annual property lien payment offers them a benefit non-residents can't get.

It was unclear last night when the new policy might take effect. Some council members want the differential to take effect as soon as possible. There are about 3,500 non-Columbians who have memberships in the various facilities.

Council members John Hansen and Fran Wishnick had proposed that the council close the door on any new memberships being sold to non-residents. But their proposals did not gain support.

Critics of the proposal said it would be seen as exclusionary, could risk political repercussions at the county government level and have serious financial consequences for the Columbia budget.

"If we limit non-CA lien payers than we are going to take a big financial hit," warned council member Charles Acquard.

"And then you have this whole exclusion policy. I've spent a lot of time before the County Council asking them to consider us partners in many projects. It's going to be pretty tough for any of us to go before them in the future and ask for partnerships if we have an exclusionary policy."

Ms. Rose argued that her policy would address Columbia's property owners concerns over their annual property liens financing recreation facilities, while they pay membership rates that are not much different from people who don't pay the lien. "I feel this community really wants a greater differential between non-lien payers and lien payers," she said.

Under Ms. Rose's proposal, non-residents would pay $250 more for either a new or renewed Package Plan I membership, which offers use of some but not all of Columbia's recreation facilities.

New or renewed Package Plan Plus memberships, which allow use of virtually all of the town's facilities -- from outdoor pools to the Hobbit's Glen golf course, would be $300 higher for non-residents. A current family membership for Columbia residents is about $987 a year.

As for joining outdoor pools, non-members would pay $150 more for new and renewal memberships. Memberships to join individual facilities, such as one of the athletic clubs, would be 30 percent higher for non-residents.

The council did not agree on whether those margins should be the ones the Columbia Association adopts. Instead the council asked association staff members to devise a new membership rate structure using the $250 minimum margin that could be marketed successfully.

The council also asked the staff to review what financial effect it would have on the association budget if membership rates for Columbians were reduced as rates for non-residents rose.

In other business, the council:

* Instructed its budget advisory committee to determine what effect limiting annual operating expenses to 3 percent would have on the Columbia Association. The current limit is 5 percent. There was strong consensus backing the proposal.

* Decided not to include planning money for a "super pool" in the Kendall Ridge neighborhood of Long Reach. Council member Gail Bailey had sought approval for the $750,000 planning expense, but many council members said they want to look at trimming this year's budget.

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