Board's OK of tot lot stirs up its opponents Proposed site near yards, Columbia residents say PTC

August 16, 1996|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

Like the Energizer bunny searching for a place to play, the controversial tot lot project in Columbia's River Hill village keeps going, and going, and going.

Opponents of the lot vow to challenge the Howard County Planning Board's decision this week permitting construction of the play area near the backyards of several angry residents.

The board's decision, reached Wednesday night, was the latest bureaucratic round in the case, which is more than a year old.

"It's really divided our community," said Blair Ewing, who lives in the new Pheasant Ridge subdivision. "And I'm very sorry."

Ewing said he will take the case to the county's Board of Appeals and may seek other remedies, which he would not specify. Ewing's home on Red Clover Lane abuts the proposed tot lot site.

He and other opponents are concerned about noise, particularly from teen-agers who might gather at the tot lot, as they do at other tot lots in Columbia.

Tot lots are children's play areas with swings and slides. About 140 are scattered throughout Columbia -- all built by the Columbia Association, the huge homeowners association that collects liens from residents and manages their parkland and recreation facilities.

The lots, like Columbia's grouped mailbox stations, also are designed as a way for neighbors to get to know each other.

The proposed tot lot off Red Clover Lane would serve about 50 homes. CA also plans to build paths to the lot.

Ewing and other opponents stress that they are not against the tot lot itself -- just its location.

They favor locations that are not so close to backyards. And they maintain that they were not told about the location of the proposed lot when they bought their homes.

Had Stacey Robuck known, she said she might not have bought her house on Red Clover Lane. Now, she said, bitterness has set in: "My cul-de-sac doesn't speak to each other. You can see the anger. This will never be a peaceful street."

At the Planning Board meeting Wednesday night, four residents spoke against the tot lot location and seven in favor.

"Tot lots, pathways -- these and other amenities are the centerpiece upon which the entire Columbia concept was founded," said supporter Tom Mateya. "Without these types of amenities, we might as well not live in Columbia."

The tot lot supporters pointed out that the lot will be 45 feet from the nearest property. They said potential wetlands problems cited by the Planning Board had been solved by moving the proposed location to slightly higher ground.

Tot lot controversy is not unheard of in Columbia.

"There are 140 tot lots in Columbia," said Planning Board member Joan Lancos. "Sometimes it feels like the [location] arguments have been played out here 140 times."

Pub Date: 8/16/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.