CA plans to hold fall hearings on River Hill health club plan

June 26, 1996|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

The Columbia Association (CA) plans to hold public meetings this fall on a controversial health club opposed by as much as half its governing board.

The $6 million health club would be built on Columbia's western fringe in River Hill, the newest and most affluent village, so as to serve residents of the new town and its outlying neighborhoods in fast-developing Clarksville.

Critics contend that CA -- a large homeowners association that manages Columbia's parkland and recreation facilities -- could better serve the bulk of Columbia's 83,500 residents in the older, more centrally located communities.

Monday night, CA officials met with three new members of its governing board -- the Columbia Council -- who were elected this spring on platforms either opposing the club or calling on CA to study the issue more before building it.

At that meeting, CA officials touted the new club and appeared to make headway with at least one of the new council members.

"There are some very compelling arguments," Joseph Merke, who represents Town Center on the 10-member council, said yesterday.

Two other newcomers, Alex Hekimian of Oakland Mills village and Wanda Hurt of Owen Brown village, said they still are not sold on the project.

The Columbia Council must approve all CA projects. This year, the council voted 8-2 to spend $275,000 to design the new facility. But the recent elections created a council with as many as five health club opponents.

CA likely will hold two public meetings this fall, said Rob Goldman, who manages recreation facilities for CA and hopes to persuade residents of the club's virtues. "It's something that I think would be good for the community," he said

Among other reasons to build the facility, he said Monday night, is the threat posed by the possibility of a private health club being built along Columbia's western fringe -- drawing Columbia and western Howard County residents.

If that happened, CA would lose $5.9 million in potential revenue by the year 2006, according to CA estimates.

Pub Date: 6/26/96

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