Plan to develop a SportsPark is approved with reluctance

April 11, 1997|By Dilshad D. Husain | Dilshad D. Husain,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

A plan to develop a SportsPark in Columbia's Harper's Choice village was unanimously approved yesterday by the Howard County Planning and Zoning Board, though some board members seemed reluctant to endorse it.

Board member Joan Lancos said she was uncomfortable with the financial aspects of the petition, which was developed by the community's homeowners' association, the Columbia Association, and the SportsPark's developer, Howard Research and Development Corp.

Lancos said she would have preferred that the petition come before the board well after renovations are completed at Harper's Choice Village Center. "Then the Columbia Association and Harper's Choice residents could better determine whether the SportsPark is necessary and economically feasible," she said.

"As much as I hate the thought of this going forward now, I will vote for it," Lancos said. The planning aspect of the SportsPark was sound, she said, and that's what comes under the board's purview.

The 15-acre site in Harper's Choice -- worth about $3.34 million -- will contain an ice skating rink, 10 batting cages and an 18-hole miniature golf course. The rink would convert to an open-air pavilion to be used for a children's day camp, possibly a baseball camp and picnics.

CA construction chief Dennis Mattey said the SportsPark would bring families and children to the village center. He said the rink would be used for team events, which would not require the type of sound system now used for figure skating at Columbia's other ice rink, in Oakland Mills village.

"There will be some level of a sound system, but it won't be blaring," he said. "We'll have to rely on noise ordinances and residential input to assess the situation."

The board also expressed reservations about the SportsPark's parking. The petition proposes 101 parking slots because of space limitations, instead of the 191 required by zoning ordinances. Mattey said the ice rink, batting cages and golf course will not all be heavily used at the same time.

He also said a small parcel of land next to the site could be used for additional parking along with Harper's Choice Middle pTC School's nearby parking lot.

Natalie Lobe, a Harper's Choice resident for 25 years, was disappointed with the board's decision.

"With all those reservations, I think they should have at least postponed their decision so they could discuss it more," she said. "The [Columbia] association had answers for their questions, but they obviously weren't competely satisfied with those answers."

A former real estate agent and urban planner, Lobe said the SportsPark would make the value of homes go down. "As a Realtor, I've never had a customer who wanted to be near noise and traffic problems," she said.

The soon-to-be revitalized village center should have been given a chance to raise revenues before a SportsPark was brought in by the CA, she said.

And Columbia resident Natalie Rose said she saw no community support in the four meetings the Columbia Council held to discuss the SportsPark.

"Several organizations lobbied for it, but not a single individual," she said.

But Wendy Tzuker, village manager of Harper's Choice, said the SportsPark "will bring life to the village. As a mother of two teen-age boys, I would have killed for something like this five years ago. There's good community support for this."

Pub Date: 4/11/97

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