Columbia's gate exists, fence or notThe August 26...

LETTERS

September 15, 1996

Columbia's gate exists, fence or not

The August 26 editorial, "Paradise has a gate," caught my eye because I have been the victim of a kind of exclusionary policy on the part of the Columbia Association.

Because we are not Columbia residents, nor members of the Columbia Association, my children are not eligible for swim team or swimming lessons at the Columbia neighborhood pool (Huntington). The reason we are not members of the Columbia Association is simple: We would not use the facilities enough to justify the cost.

Nevertheless, as far as we are concerned, the Huntington pool is part of our neighborhood. Although we live in Savage, my children attend school and socialize with many children from the Huntington and East Huntington neighborhoods. They are in Scouts with residents of Huntington and East Huntington. Several members of our church live in Huntington and East Huntington.

Persons who are not Columbia residents, but who are members of the Columbia Association, can be on the swim team at double the "resident/member" rate of $75. It seems perfectly reasonable to me that non-members would pay extra, even double. But it would also seem reasonable to me that non-resident, non-members would also be able to pay the $150. The reason that this is not so was explained to me in this way: Columbia residents pay a property assessment to the Columbia Association, part of which supports the member services including the athletic and recreation facilities and programs.

I inquired and was told by Keith Price, the CA assistant controller, that the assessment is 0.73 percent of half of the assessed value of the property. If my house is assessed for $150,000, then my annual payment to CA is $548. Then, 6.43 percent of that amount is allocated to support "member service." That's about $35.

In other words, a Columbia resident contributes $35 a year toward all the athletic and recreational programs, including the pools. What fraction of that $32 goes toward the pools? A quarter? A half? Let's say $17 a year for all the pools. So a Columbia resident does not pay a significant amount of money in their property assessment for the pools.

So if you are not a resident of Columbia, the only way you can get your kid into the swim team, which is as much a social as an athletic activity, is to pay big money -- not only the double rate for the team fee, but also $500 for the summer family pool plan. Columbia and its wealthier residents have separated themselves from the rest of the county to provide all the lavish recreational facilities that they can afford -- and are contemplating more -- leaving the rest of the county high and dry (figuratively and literally). If Columbia should join the rest of the county to contribute to more facilities available at reasonable cost to all residents, we would have a better quality of life here and less sense of division between people who are, in every other sense, neighbors.

Elizabeth A. Fixsen

Savage

Wine grapes good alternative crop

One item in the Aug. 17 article about promoting small crops in Howard was only briefly mentioned: Wine grapes are a very profitable commodity and one currently in great demand in Maryland by amateur winemakers and commercial wineries, who presently have to go out-of-state to meet their needs.

A ton of grapes can be produced in as little as a quarter-acre and bring in close to $2,000, depending on variety. It is an ideal crop for hobbyists, agriculture-minded persons with limited acreage and full-time farmers looking for adjunct or replacement crops. And judging from the increasing popularity of state wine festivals, the end product has a lot more appeal than bok choy.

Jack Johnston

Westminster

The writer is with the Maryland Grape Growers Association.

River Hill deplores hate crime

The River Hill Village Board strongly condemns the actions of the individual(s) who devaced the River Hill High School sign recently with a racial slur.

The village board intends to work with residents, community representatives and Howard County Police Department to insure that these acts of vandalism and those responsible for defacing any community property will be stopped by a combined community effort. The River Hill community is proud to be a part of Columbia's history of diversity and will continue to support efforts for educational opportunities which instruct rather than dictate, to join rather than divide and to work towards a sense of community that welcomes all.

We encourage and support the Howard County Police Department in its efforts to apprehend the perpetrators of this crime and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. As with the trespassing at the River Hill pool, there is no room in our community for actions such as these.

Sunny McGuinn

Clarksville

The writer is village manager with the River Hill Community Association, Inc.

Elkridge: official dumping ground

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