Budget planning produces wish list Some on CA board envision horse trail, free swimming

September 03, 1997|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

If certain board members of the Columbia Association have their way, residents may be able to ride a horse from one end of Columbia to the other, swim for free and possibly vote for a mayor and town council.

Those are three of 35 pre-budget proposals by board members of the huge homeowners association, which helps run Columbia and is expected to spend about $46 million next fiscal year.

The wish list is a combination of expensive proposals, cost-saving ideas and volunteer service initiatives. Whether any of the ideas become reality remains to be seen.

As part of its budget planning, the board is also inviting the public's ideas at a hearing at 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Slayton House community center in the Wilde Lake Village Center.

The typical Columbia homeowner pays about $730 a year in property liens to CA, and the association pays 185 full-time employees, owns more than 3,000 acres of open space and runs service and recreation programs. Among its best-known facilities are 23 outdoor swimming pools -- the subject of several of the proposals.

Free admission pondered

Three board members want to make admission to the pools free or reduce fees. This year, Columbia residents pay $252 for a family membership to the pools, in addition to their yearly liens. Jean Friedberg, who represents Hickory Ridge on the 10-member board, and board member Cecilia Januszkiewicz of Long Reach, said free swimming is a hallmark of homeowners associations throughout the nation.

But CA staff members say eliminating the fees would cost CA a minimum of $700,000. They're working up a more exact number.

"There's a huge cost involved," said Rob Goldman, a CA vice president who runs membership services.

Those who live outside Columbia can also use the pools but pay twice as much for the family memberships.

Friedberg said one way to offer free swimming to Columbia residents may be to slowly reduce the number of pools to 10 -- one for each village.

He also proposes that the association study building a horse trail from the CA Horse Center south of Columbia to Centennial Park, north of Columbia. Friedberg said the trail could be combined with a bike path, but acknowledged he didn't know if it was feasible.

Among other concerns: how to get the path over the Middle Patuxent River, U.S. 29 and Route 32.

Incorporation advocate

Sure to be controversial are two proposals by Charles Rees, a board member from Kings Contrivance and longtime advocate of Columbia's incorporation. Rees says the CA board should fund a study already begun by the Institute for Governmental Service at the University of Maryland.

The Columbia Municipal League, which advocates incorporation, commissioned the study last year but backed out when it didn't like some of the study's initial findings, said Rees.

Rees said it would cost about $3,000 to complete the study.

Rees also would like CA to spend up to $20,000 to get an independent legal opinion on whether CA is overcharging property owners. Rees, a University of Baltimore law professor, said CA is violating its own rules -- although his opinion is not shared by CA staff, previous legal opinions or previous state attorney general opinions.

CA board member Hope Sachwald of Harper's Choice wants CA to develop an independent transportation network that matches volunteers with some senior citi- zens and other nondrivers. She said it should be patterned after a similar program in Portland, Maine.

Other proposals:

Build more sculptures and other artwork on CA parkland, possibly including a memorial for Columbia founder James W. Rouse.

Study trends in Columbia property values.

End free health club memberships given to CA board members.

Hire a consultant to study the efficiency of CA's open-space division.

Build a band shell on the edge of Lake Elkhorn.

Lease golf carts along Lake Elkhorn and Lake Kittamaqundi so senior citizens and disabled residents can use the lakeside paths.

Pub Date: 9/03/97

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