Help Determine the Future of Columbia’s Neighborhood Centers

The Columbia Association’s Board of Directors (CABOD) is evaluating the future of the neighborhood centers. There are fourteen neighborhood centers spread across seven of Columbia’s villages with no neighborhood centers in Hickory Ridge, Owen Brown and Town Center. The neighborhood centers are owned by CA. However, the facilities are managed by the village associations for the benefit of the community. Revenue generated from the use of the buildings helps to fund village operations, including the day-to-day maintenance of the centers as well as capital improvements to the facilities not covered by CA. The River Hill Community Association (RHCA) manages one neighborhood center, the Meeting Room, located adjacent to the River Hill Outdoor Pool (6330 Trotter Road, Clarksville). The River Hill Meeting Room opened in 1995 and is a mid-size center at 1,681 square feet.

Although the CABOD is committed to developing a strategy to create an environment which will “work for residents and nourish the growth of a sense of community,”1 they are also considering the
cost of maintaining the facilities and evaluating the best Help Determine the Future of Columbia’s Neighborhood Centers uses of the buildings. The River Hill Meeting Room is the newest Columbia neighborhood center and served as RHCA’s offices and meeting space until Claret Hall opened in December 1999. In addition to being rented by members of the community for social events such as birthday parties and bridal showers, the River Hill Meeting Room is used for a variety of class programs, housed the Middle Patuxent Co-op Nursery School for ten years, continues to serve as meeting space for religious organizations and scout troops, is used by the village’s swim teams for events and meetings, and much more. Although a modest rental fee is usually charged, the association’s Board of Directors will consider rent-free uses of this building on a case-by-case basis. The rental rates are lower at the Meeting Room than those at Claret Hall, which is also managed by RHCA, due to the self-service nature of the facility, its size, and its more casual appearance and amenities. In the last two years, CA has invested in the River Hill Meeting Room and installed wood-look flooring in the main room, sound panels to improve the acoustics in the space, and renovated the kitchenette to make it ADA compliant. The HVAC systems were replaced in December 2019. The neighborhood centers in the other Columbia villages serve similar functions, though in some cases they were built to residential standards, do not meet existing building codes, and are not ADA compliant.

RHCA is preparing for a mid-January meeting between the village associations and the CABOD and we need to hear from you. Should CA continue to maintain Columbia’s neighborhood centers? What types of uses do you feel are appropriate for these buildings? Have you or your organization rented space or attended a party, a class, or a meeting at the River Hill Meeting Room or another neighborhood center? Does having the ability to use these spaces have value to you? Please share your thoughts no later than January 15 by contacting: Susan Smith, the Village Manager, at 410-531-1749 or manager@villageofriverhill.org; the association’s Board of Directors, see page 3 or visit www.villageofriverhill.org/board/board-of-directors; and Renee DuBois, River Hill’s Columbia Council Representative and a member of the CABOD at 443-686-0702 or renee.dubois@ca-board.org.

Let us know if the neighborhood centers matter to you and why!

1. DuBois, Renee, “Council Corner: What is the Fate of our Neighborhood Centers?” The River Hill Villager, Vol. 27, No. 7, (2019), pg. 4.

Development Updates:

Given the Village of River Hill’s location, on the edge of Columbia, its proximity to large parcels of undeveloped land and lots eligible for subdivision, as well as access to MD 32 and MD 108, the community continues to be impacted by development and redevelopment projects. Updates are provided below:

Zoning Board Hearing Date Set for Continuing Care Retirement Community

In March 2019, the Howard County Planning Board recommended approval, subject to four conditions, of Erickson Living Properties II, LLC’s petition to amend the zoning of approximately 62 acres in Clarksville. The site fronts on MD 108 at the Sheppard Lane intersection and the change in zoning from Rural Conservation-Density Exchange Option (RC-DEO) and Business-General (B-2) to a Community Enhancement Floating Zoning – Mixed (CEF-M) zone is needed for the Erickson Living at Limestone Valley Continuing Care Retirement Community to move forward and for the existing Freestate Gasoline Service Station to be relocated and architecturally modified. The Zoning Board will begin to hear the zoning amendment case (ZB-1118M) on Wednesday, March 4 at 6 p.m. at the George Howard Building (6340 Court House Drive, Ellicott City).

River Hill Square

The River Hill Square retail project is currently under construction on the site of the former River Hill Garden Center. The developer has requested a non-residential variance to reduce the required structure and use setback from a residential district from 30’ to 0’ to accommodate an 8-foot solid fence. The Board of Appeals will hear the case (BA 19-022V) on Tuesday, January 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the George Howard Building.

Robinson Overlook

The Woda Group, in conjunction with the Howard County Housing Commission, is developing a 48-unit apartment complex having a low, moderate, and mixed income structure on the property located at 7410 Grace Drive, Columbia. The developer’s Site Development Plan must be reviewed and approved by the Howard County Planning Board. The Planning Board will hold a hearing on the project (SDP-19-055 & PB 449) on Thursday, January 9, starting at or near 7 p.m. at the George Howard Building.

Clarksville Water Tank

As part of the county’s FY21 capital budget process, in December the Howard County Public Works Board recommended inclusion of Capital Project W8334. This project is for the design and construction of a 0.5 million-gallon elevated water storage tank and associated piping to serve the
630 West Water Zone. The project includes funding to identify and purchase a site in the Clarksville/River Hill area. The western half of the Elevation 630 West water zone extends from the Middle Patuxent River to Guilford Road and encompasses Clarksville, western Hickory Ridge and River Hill. The eastern 630 West Zone includes Harpers Choice, Wilde Lake and the eastern portion of Hickory Ridge. Redevelopment of downtown Columbia has increased the demand for infrastructure improvements including the need to include planning and construction for additional water storage in the Columbia and Clarksville areas. This project was initiated by the Department of Public Works in response to the needs of the County’s approved Master Plan for Water and Sewerage. The elevated water tank is required in order to stabilize zone pressures, provide system reliability, and for use with fire protection. In February, the Planning Board will review the proposed capital program and any new or substantially changed capital projects. The Planning Board prepares comments and recommendations regarding the impact of the proposed capital program on the County’s General Plan and the growth of the County and submits those comments and recommendations to the County Executive with a copy to the County Council.

Traffic & Safety Concerns Result in Re-Forming of Committee

The Association’s newly re-formed Traffic and Safety Committee held an organizational meeting on December 3, 2019. Dave Dalpe, a member of the River Hill Board of Directors, is the committee Chair.

At the meeting, Tony Miceli, the former committee Chair and current Board Chair, provided history on issues, committee achievements, and recent transportation projects in the Clarksville/River Hill area.

Attendees identified issues to focus on including the prevalence of speeding on neighborhood streets, noise from MD 32, and traffic volumes and safety issues on MD 108. The committee will meet next on February 13 at 7 p.m. at Claret Hall.

The committee needs your help:

The Traffic & Safety Committee is seeking residents with expertise in sound engineering to join the committee to assist with or advise on assessing traffic noise levels along MD 32. This has become a significant concern for residents who live along MD. 32. On behalf of residents who have expressed concerns, the association plans to re-visit the noise issues with the State Highway Administration and our elected representatives.

Neighbors: Please remember to observe and follow posted speed limits when driving on Village streets, particularly those in residential areas. Incidents of speeding on residential streets have been observed with increasing frequency. This puts pedestrians, bikers and other drivers in significant danger. Please consider the safety of your fellow residents and drive slowly. Speed was likely a contributing factor for accidents that happened in December on Fall Moon Ride and Great Star Drive

To volunteer or to share a concern, contact Dave Dalpe at ddalpe1@gmail.com or the village manager at manager@villageofriverhill.org or 410-531-1749.

New Class Offering: Tai Chi for Health and Wellness

Discover the many health and wellness benefits of Tai Chi including balance, coordination, mindfulness, strength, posture, fall prevention and more in this new class offering at The Meeting Room in River Hill (6330 Trotter Road, Clarksville) beginning on January 7. Instructor Teresa Heitzmann is the Owner/Director of Teresa Heitzmann, MSPT, LLC, since 2011 and brings her expertise and training in physical therapy, Tai Chi for Health and Wellness, Otago Fall Prevention, Yoga & Pilates in Physical Therapy, McKenzie Back Training, Australian Physiotherapy Pilates, Functional Orthopedics, and Neurodevelopmental Training to River Hill twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Tai Chi has been shown to reduce the risk of falls among senior citizens and has been associated with improved memory and cognition.

The twice weekly class will be held from 1-2 p.m. and is geared toward senior citizens. Teresa says, “I have focused on working with my favorite group of people, senior citizens. Their wisdom and experiences fascinate me, as does their determination to work through injuries and age-related changes in order to maintain the highest quality of life possible. I have made it my mission to help them achieve all their goals of living their healthiest and fullest life possible!”

Teresa also provides Physical Therapy services for clients of all ages with an emphasis on working with seniors at her office located at 9170 Rumsey Road, Columbia. Home PT is also available for those clients who are unable to travel to the clinic due to a recent injury, surgery, or physical ability. PT services include treatment for patients recovering from sports injuries, back/neck problems, arthritic changes, medical conditions, surgeries, etc.

To find out further information or to register for the class, visit www.FitforLifePT.org or call 443 799-3119.