River Hill residents seek a voice in shaping Columbia's future WEST COLUMBIA

December 23, 1992|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Staff Writer

River Hill may be the newest and smallest of Columbia's 10 villages, but village board members think the community has a big stake in shaping the direction of Columbia's future.

That's why the five-member village board, which took office in September, made sending a representative on the Columbia Council a top priority.

Last week, the River Hill board got the council's blessing to appoint a non-voting representative, who will hold office until River Hill selects its first voting member to the Columbia Council.

The temporary River Hill representative will be barred from the council's executive sessions -- closed meetings at which sensitive personnel and financial matters are discussed.

In its January community newsletter, the board will invite River Hill residents to apply for the seat and the board will select a representative. If no one wants the spot, the board will appoint one of its own members.

David Berson, River Hill village board chairman, said board members thought it was important to get at least a non-voting member on the council to give the new community a voice and to keep River Hill residents informed.

"Obviously, we would have preferred that our representative be allowed to take part in the executive sessions and have a vote," said Mr. Berson. "But we're very happy the council agreed to allow us at least a non-voting seat, particularly with the discussion on the budget coming up. We really felt it was critical we had a voice in the new budget. Also this will give the community a chance to get a firm idea of what the issues are."

River Hill, located on the far west side of Columbia between Trotter Road and routes 108 and 32, has about 80 households with an estimated 100 residents.

So far, the village board has been effective.

The first big issue the board tackled was convincing the County Council to change the county's General Plan to allow for Trotter Road to remain open north of Route 32.

River Hill's neighborhoods are planned east and west of Trotter Road.

The 1990 General Plan called for dead-ending the road north of Trotter Road to prevent motorists using the road as a short cut between Route 32 to the south and Route 108 to the north.

The River Hill board argued that the road should be left open for public safety reasons.

Mr. Berson says the village board plans now to focus on four community issues, including: getting a tot lot built; publishing a directory of River Hill residents; working with the county on plans for access and use of a nearby protected nature area, and ensuring the county sets up traffic controls on Trotter Road to prevent speeding and large truck use.

Perhaps the toughest task ahead for the River Hill board will be working to alleviate tension and sour feelings some longtime Trotter Road residents have over the Dec. 7 County Council vote to keep the road open.

Some area residents vehemently opposed keeping it open north of Route 32, fearing the road would be used as a shortcut between routes 32 and 108.

Mr. Berson said the board plans to monitor the county's progress on setting speed controls and vehicle weight limits so large trucks will be barred from using the road.

"We believe we have a lot of common ground with the people who've been living in this area a long time," said Mr. Berson.

"Our goal is going to be to convince them of that," he said.

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