Land used for rowdy parties may come under county's wing Revelers upset nearby residents WEST COLUMBIA

June 30, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

The party could be ending soon for late-night revelers on privately owned open space in the Clary's Forest neighborhood.

The Columbia Council has initiated a legal procedure to have a 140-acre wooded area at the end of Bright Passage overlooking the Middle Patuxent River -- and pathways leading to it -- designated as Title 19 property.

The designation under a county ordinance would allow police to survey the property, post warning signs restricting use of the area, erect barriers and make arrests without the property owner being present.

Hickory Ridge village officials requested the change after nearby residents complained about late-night parties. In a letter to the Columbia Association, village manager Jane Parrish said that vehicles have been driving on paths to the open space area and that cases of beer cans have been left and a trash can burned at the "favorite gathering place" near a storm water management pond.

The ordinance governing county parks and open space areas prohibits access during late-night hours and restricts certain activities such as bonfires and drinking alcoholic beverages.

The "late-night party problem" has been taking place since before Clary's Forest was fully developed about five years ago, Ms. Parrish said. People also routinely would cut trees with chain saws and shoot at targets and animals, said Fred Pryor, CA open space management director.

"Now with people living in the area, it just becomes a nuisance," he said.

Rowdiness intensified this spring, Ms. Parrish said.

"In late April and in May, we got complaints for about three or four weekends in a row. It was bad, whenever the weather was good," she said. "High school students were parking cars on the road and carrying cases of beer in."

The village office hasn't received complaints for the past three weeks, Ms. Parrish said.

Mr. Pryor said about 200 acres out of 2,700 acres of open space owned by the association throughout Columbia have been designated as Title 19 property. "After that, we seldom have a problem," he said.

The association and Howard Research and Development Corp., a subsidiary of the Rouse Co., own the open space lots along Bright Passage. Eventually, the HRD-owned property is expected to be turned over for public use as part of the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area, Mr. Pryor said.

Without the designation, police can't make arrests or take certain other enforcement actions in response to a complaint if the property owner is not present, Mr. Pryor said.

"We agree it's a community problem that nobody should have to put up with," he said.

Council member Mike Rethman of Hickory Ridge told the council that the partying is a "significant and recurring problem" because of noise and other disturbances.

"If they were relatively discreet, nobody would know they were there," he said.

The Title 19 procedure goes through the county Department of Recreation and Parks and the Police Department. The request was sent from CA to the recreation department last week, Mr. Pryor said. Police would survey the area to determine where to erect signs and barriers while allowing access for law enforcement. CA then would implement the plan.

Mr. Pryor said he expects a response from the county by mid-July.

Kings Contrivance village is considering similar action to restrict late-night use of the Macgill's "Commons" area because a resident has complained about noise and litter.

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