Plans for swimming pool in Hickory Ridge OK'd

January 15, 1995|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,Sun Staff Writer

The county Board of Appeals has approved plans for a 50-meter swimming pool to be built in Columbia's Hickory Ridge village despite vocal opposition from some residents.

The board's 3-2 decision, which was announced at a meeting Tuesday night, overturned the recommendations of the county Planning Board and Department of Planning and Zoning.

"All I can say is thank you to the board," said Jamie LeGoff, the Columbia Association swimming coach and former All-American swimmer who is seeking to build the pool. "I feel that swimming in this county can move ahead and take the form it should have taken 20 years ago."

Some in the community were upset by the decision and are considering whether to appeal it in Circuit Court, said Harmel Drive resident Jay Swearingen.

"The decision is disappointing," said Mr. Swearingen, who said he has spoken with a number of his neighbors about the vote. "This did not appear to be a true unbiased examination of the evidence, material and input from the community."

Mr. LeGoff, 28, plans to build the Olympic-size pool on 7.5 acres of land near the intersection of Harmel Drive and Cedar Lane. A zoning exemption was required to build the pool in the residential area.

The $3 million project will include an off-white, 40-foot-high fabric bubble to cover the pool in winter.

Mr. LeGoff hopes that the pool -- which will be at least twice as large as any of Columbia's 21 outdoor and two indoor pools -- will serve as a training site for young residents seeking to compete nationally and internationally.

The swimming coach has said that he expects at least 800 families to join the pool.

Critics say that all but one of the community's outdoor pools are underused.

During more than 12 hours of hearings over three nights last month, many residents of the area complained about the increased traffic the pool might cause. They also objected to what they saw as an unsightly white bubble in the middle of their neighborhood.

A written decision from the appeals board explaining its decision is not expected for at least a week.

In announcing its decision Tuesday, the board pledged to examine the exemption for the pool in two years to make sure that a finished pool has not caused significant problems for the neighborhood, said Evelyn L. Tanner, chairwoman of the board. Ms. Tanner voted against granting the exemption.

Although this week's decision is a significant step for Mr. LeGoff, he still faces substantial hurdles in his quest to build the pool.

Having already spent almost $20,000 -- nearly his entire savings -- Mr. LeGoff now must raise the $3 million for the project. He originally had planned to create a for-profit corporation and take out bank loans, but he said Friday that he might form a nonprofit corporation instead, then seek support through corporate sponsorship and donations.

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