Despite protests, ice rink, health club approved Foes accuse CA board of ignoring their concerns

March 14, 1997|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

The Columbia Association's board of directors voted last night to move fast on construction of a $6 million health club and a $3 million ice rink-sports complex, knocking the legs out from a last-ditch effort to hold a Columbia-wide, citizens' vote on the projects.

The vote came after a long meeting during which tensions ran high between board members and about 25 opponents, who accused them of not listening to their concerns.

But board members said they had been listening for two years.

The opponents may try to gather the 25,000 signatures needed to bring the matter to a nonbinding vote, but a key to their strategy was to halt all construction.

Last night, eight of CA's 10 board members said it is time to move forward. Even two members who opposed the health club -- to be built in River Hill village -- spoke on the need to build now.

"It should not stop. The vote [to approve the projects] has been taken," said Joe Merke, who represents Town Center.

Two board members voted against construction: Norma Rose of Wilde Lake and Alex Hekimian of Oakland Mills.

CA officials said they would like to move quickly on the projects. The ice rink -- to be built in the village of Harper's Choice -- is scheduled to open Nov. 1. Eventually, it will have adjacent

batting cages and a miniature golf course.

The three-level health club -- with a swimming pool, gymnasium, weight rooms, spa facilities and other amenities -- is scheduled to open in summer 1998.

This couldn't be worse news for the opponents, who leveled a series of allegations against the board.

"Please, let the people be heard," said Chuck Rees, a resident of Kings Contrivance village.

And a Harper's Choice resident, speaking for many in the audience, said that the board showed little concern for their opinions. "I resent it. And I'll resent it until the day I leave this city," she said.

But Hope Sachwald, the board vice chairwoman who represents Harper's Choice, said the all-volunteer board had studied the projects in detail as part of its review of CA budgets.

"I hear a lot of anger tonight," Sachwald said. " I really feel like the [board members] have put in a lot of hours and are here because they believe in something."

Pub Date: 3/14/97

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