Council drops pool plan at residents' urging EAST COLUMBIA

January 19, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

An uprising in Oakland Mills village over a Columbi Association proposal to convert two neighborhood pools to "adults only" and "teen-agers only" has helped persuade the Columbia Council to drop the idea for the coming budget year.

"We're very happy the council decided to do that," said Albert J. Dunn, chairman of the Oakland Mills village board. "I hope that proposal is gone for good, at least for our village."

About 55 Oakland Mills residents attended a village board meeting last Tuesday to oppose the pool proposal, which the Columbia Association introduced as a supplement to its proposed 1993-1994 budget. The proposal was intended to increase use of Columbia pools with low attendance and membership, and to help reduce financial losses.

Mr. Dunn said Oakland Mills officials want to take the lead during the next year in discussing with the association staff alternative uses of Columbia's 21 neighborhood pools that would improve their financial outlook and residents' enjoyment of them.

The nonprofit association, which manages Columbia's recreational facilities at the direction of the Columbia Council, proposed that Talbott Springs in Oakland Mills and Swansfield in the Village of Harper's Choice be restricted to use by teen-agers.

Jeffers Hill in Long Reach village and Stevens Forest in Oakland Mills, Bryant Woods in Wilde Lake village were proposed as pools that would be restricted to use by adults.

Oakland Mills residents told association officials at the village board meeting that they objected to restricting the use of pools to certain age groups. Organized by the watchdog group Alliance for a Better Columbia, Oakland Mills residents started a door-to-door campaign and petition drive, warning neighbors that they might "lose access" to their neighborhood pools.

Residents of townhouses near Talbott Springs worried about noise that might come from an all-teen pool, especially if a sound system was installed. "The area around the pool and the townhouses forms a natural amphitheater," said David Hatch, president of the Holly Court Homeowners Association.

Fran Wishnick, who represents Oakland Mills on the Columbia Council, proposed eliminating the proposal for restricted pools from consideration during the budget process at Thursday night's council meeting. Mr. Hatch said he would like the issue "settled on a permanent basis so we don't have to revisit it year after year. I believe in the family pool concept."

After the budget is adopted, attention will be focused on possible programs at designated pools, such as setting aside certain hours for particular groups rather than making the pools exclusively for one group, said Pam Mack, the association's vice president of community relations. "The opposition was to exclusive use, not to the category of people," she said.

Columbia's pools are projected to run at a $1.2 million loss in 1993-1994, said Rob Goldman, the association's director of membership services. The pools are projected to generate $1.3 million in revenues and cost $2.5 million to operate, including $827,000 to pay off debt and make repairs and replacements, he said. In essence, the association will have to allocate $1.2 million from a projected $16.8 million it will generate from annual charges assessed to property owners to subsidize the money-losing pools, Mr. Goldman said.

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