Council votes for Harper's Choice SportsPark $2.6 million facility will feature skating rink

June 14, 1996|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

The Columbia Council voted 7-3 last night to begin planning a $2.6 million SportsPark for Harper's Choice village that features a skating rink.

The council also took up two measures related to private meetings -- voting to ensure its annual retreat will be close to home this year and modifying the rules by which it can go into closed session to elect a chairman and vice chairman.

The council, composed of one elected member from each of Columbia's 10 villages, serves as the board of directors for the Columbia Association, the huge homeowners' association that collects liens from Columbia residents and manages their recreation facilities and parkland.

The association views the SportsPark as a moneymaker that will help revitalize the Harper's Choice village center that is plagued by partially empty shopping areas where residents fear crime.

The association estimates the SportsPark would earn $105,000 annually in profits -- after debt payments are made on the facility.

The SportsPark would house a seasonal ice pavilion, 36 holes of miniature golf, about eight batting cages and a children's play area.

The majority of the council supported a motion to spend $65,000 on planning the facility. But Alex Hekimian of Oakland Mills and Joseph Merke of Town Center -- both new members -- and Wilde Lake's Norma Rose, who voted by proxy, tried to strip the ice rink from the proposal. They view the rink as a potential money-loser.

"All it would take is a few wrong guesses to make it a perennial loser," said Hekimian.

But the other seven members rejected their proposal.

On public meetings, the council approved a new policy for electing its chairman and vice chairman in open session. In the past, the council has discussed the candidates and voted on them in a private meeting that excluded the candidates and the public.

In doing so this year, the council appeared to have violated state homeowners' association laws by not calling for an official vote before going into closed session.

Wanda Hurt of Owen Brown offered an amendment stating that executive sessions could be called at members' discretion to discuss personal matters. She offered a hypothetical example of a candidate having an alcohol problem. "That's a very sensitive issue," she said.

Although the public would be excluded, the candidate would be allowed to be present, under Hurt's amendment.

The council voted, 8-2, to accept the amended measure, with Ken Puckett of Dorsey's Search and George Pangburn of Kings Contrivance voting against it.

As for the location of the annual fall weekend retreat, the council approved a proposal by David Berson of River Hill that the retreat be held in Howard County. Last year's retreat was held on the Eastern Shore.

The resolution was passed despite objections from Hope Sachwald of Harper's Choice, who said that having the retreat away from Columbia is the best way to ensure that all the council members will attend the entire retreat.

Responding to concerns that Columbia residents should have a chance to attend, Sachwald said: "The year that we did it here, nobody came other than the council, and not all of them came" to the entire retreat.

At this fall's retreat, the council is expected to begin what members say will be a thorough strategic planning process for Columbia's future.

Pub Date: 6/14/96

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