Cheaper option offered to expand Athletic Club Plan called shortsighted

River Hill proponents don't want their project killed

February 21, 1997|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

Hoping to kill plans for a $6.3 million athletic club proposed for Columbia's River Hill village, Columbia Association board member Norma Rose last night introduced a less expensive proposal to expand the association's older Athletic Club in the Harper's Choice village.

But proponents of the proposed River Hill club said her approach was shortsighted -- that the River Hill facility is needed to relieve crowding and eventually will earn millions for the association.

"On balance," said John Conlon, chairman of CA's Financial Advisory Committee, "we really think the project would be a good one."

His committee -- joined by the leadership of CA's board of directors -- unanimously supports the River Hill health club.

For more than a year, the 10-member board has debated the project. The board, made up of one elected member from each of Columbia's 10 villages, is set to vote next week on the project as part of an overall spending plan of $49 million for the next fiscal year.

The total budget is a 26 percent jump over current spending levels -- an increase attributed in large part to the proposed River Hill facility, as well as $2.8 million for construction of a combined ice rink, miniature golf and batting cage facility in Harper's Choice.

As of yesterday, six board members supported the River Hill project and four did not, based on public statements and interviews with them. The project needs six votes to pass.

But Rose, who represents Wilde Lake, is fighting until the end -- convinced the project marks a dangerous direction for CA, the multiservice homeowners' association that manages Columbia and is supported in part by assessments charged to Columbia property owners.

Rose and others believe CA should be less concerned with serving non-Columbia residents. (About 30 percent of the new health club's users are expected to be nonresidents.)

"I'm just hoping that someone on the [board] who was previously inclined toward River Hill will say, 'Wait a minute, there's an alternative,' " Rose said.

According to Rose, expansion of the Athletic Club would be one-fifth as costly as building the River Hill facility. It would bring an additional $1.9 million into CA's coffers over the next eight years, compared with $2.7 million for the River Hill facility.

But board member David Berson of River Hill offered different numbers.

Berson, who is the chief economist with Fannie Mae in Washington, said the difference was closer to $3 million -- $1 million in profits from the Athletic Club expansion compared with $4 million from construction of the River Hill facility.

Pub Date: 2/21/97

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