Village boards have mixed views on golf course Pool issues still hot topic COLUMBIA

January 22, 1993|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Staff Writer

Representatives of some of Columbia's 10 village boards divided last night on whether the Columbia Council should approve a proposed $5.5 million golf course on 204 acres of undeveloped land that weaves through the villages of Wilde Lake and Town Center.

But they did agree that the council should hold steady the current assessment charged Columbia property owners. That rate is 73 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Because Columbia is not a municipality, the assessment, or "lien" charge, is not tax deductible for property owners.

Mike Rethman, a member of the Hickory Ridge village board, was among four representatives of village boards who said their boards support construction of an 18-hole course.

"It makes sense philosophically, fiscally and environmentally," he said.

But Cecilia Januszkiewicz, representing the Village of Long Reach, said her board "adamantly is opposed to construction of any golf course."

She was one of three village board representatives who said their boards oppose the golf course.

Residents of Kendall Ridge in Long Reach village have been lobbying hard this year for the council to include money in the proposed budget for a neighborhood pool.

The council voted late last year against providing money in the spending plan for the pool.

"We are absolutely appalled that planning has been approved for a pool in the [Village of] River Hill, but not for Kendall Ridge," said Ms. Januszkiewicz.

River Hill is Columbia's newest village and has about 350 residents. Kendall Ridge has about 1,200 residents.

Those issues and the designation of some outdoor neighborhood pools for specific age groups dominated the early portion of last night's public hearing on Columbia's proposed $30.6 million budget for next year.

Columbia's proposed 1993-1994 budget projects that assessments should generate about $16 million, and membership fees for joining recreational facilities and money from community programs should bring in about $15 million.

After about 90 minutes of testimony, there were almost 30 people still scheduled to speak.

Pam Mack, vice president for community relations for the Columbia Association, said many of those signed up to speak had indicated they would be addressing the issue of whether the council should approve building a golf course.

Also last night, village board representatives generally concurred that the council should put serious study into designating some of its neighborhood pools as either all-adult or all-teen facilities as a way to make the pools financially successful.

Some of the pools are considered a drain on the budget of the Columbia Association, the non-profit or ganization that manages Columbia's recreational facilities and community programs.

The council decided earlier this month not to include the designated pool issue in its budget deliberations. But village board representatives said last night that many board members believe the issue is a compelling one that merits thoughtful debate.

Many of those speaking during the early portion of the hearing also said they favored a budget proposal to significantly raise the membership rates non-Columbians pay to purchase membership plans for Columbia's numerous recreational facilities.

The proposal calls for only slight increases in the prices charged to residents.

Alex Hekimian, president of the Alliance for a Better Columbia, a citizens watchdog group, was among those who cited the membership fee issue in his testimony.

He said his group believes that the council should alter the plan by making significant reductions in the prices charged to residents.

"We believe there is considerable latent demand for certain facilities, such as neighborhood pools, which could be tapped by way of fee reductions of 15 [percent] to 20 percent next year," Mr. Hekimian told the council.

He said his group also suggests reducing capital expenditures to $2 million annually during the next five years, paring the Columbia Association's marketing expenses by 50 percent, freezing personnel costs and revising the bidding process to ensure competition.

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