River Hill location for tot lot approved

Playground to be built behind a condominium at the Fieldstone site


January 29, 2003|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

A tot lot long planned for River Hill that has been without a specific site for years will finally be built near the village center.

After scouting out three locations, the Columbia Association and River Hill village have agreed on one that the Howard County Planning Board deemed suitable - along a path directly behind one of the four condominium buildings of Fieldstone at River Hill that are under construction.

The Planning Board approved the location last week, and the playground could be built by this summer.

"I think residents are relieved that it's approved and will be constructed," said Susan Smith, River Hill's village manager.

The Planning Board approved the location with the condition that the Columbia Association construct a vegetation barrier around a nearby storm-water management pond if the pond holds more than 18 inches of water.

The barrier, which is supposed to be designed with some type of bramble or sticker bush, would prevent children from playing in the pond and possibly getting injured, said Gary Kaufman, chairman of the Planning Board.

At first, the Planning Board had concerns about the location and turned down the proposal in May. The board balked at the location because a number of older adults are expected to live in the condominiums, which are being built by Beazer Homes at Signal Bell Lane and Great Star Drive.

Daniel Gregory, general sales manger for Beazer Homes, has said the condominiums are not age-restricted, though Beazer expects a number of empty-nesters will move there. Owners are expected to begin moving into the condominiums in June or July.

At last week's hearing, the board still did not feel the site was the best location for a playground, Kaufman said. But he pointed out that no residents showed up to protest it.

He said the board's main concern was that the people buying the condominiums did not know about the tot lot. At the hearing, a representative from Beazer presented the board with a map showing prospective buyers where the playground would be located.

"We felt as long as the people moving in knew it, this was OK," Kaufman said.

Cabell Greenwood, a member of the River Hill Village Board, acknowledged that the spot where the playground will be built is not perfect, but it is the best available location.

Greenwood said the tot lot is needed because no other playground is within a reasonable walking distance. The closest one is behind Ascending Moon Path.

"We're delighted to have this issue resolved," he said.

Chick Rhodehamel, the Columbia Association's vice president for open-space management, said the selection of the site had been a long process.

"We worked with the community to come up with the best site we could," he said.

As part of the village's master plan, the tot lot's general location was selected three years ago. However, the first two proposed sites were scrapped.

The first, along a pathway that runs parallel to Route 32 and Great Star Drive, was rejected after residents expressed concern that it was in a wooded area. The next location was rejected because it was where storm-water management ponds were to be built for the Fieldstone development.

Now that the tot lot has been approved, the open-space amenities for River Hill - Columbia's newest village - are nearing completion.

The Columbia Association's proposed 2004 fiscal budget includes funding to complete the village's final 11,000 linear feet of paths in the Pheasant Ridge III development and three other tot lots, which may include playground equipment such as slides and swing sets.

The projects are expected to be competed by April next year.

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