A Columbia Association vice president said he is "cautiously optimistic" the association can satisfy disgruntled Columbia Hills residentsby finding another place to park and service 25 dump trucks and 40 other vehicles.
Although the association has not ruled out the 4.7-acre site on Edgar Road, which raised a furor among residents of neighboring Columbia Hills when they learned of it in October, association planners are looking at "five or six" other sites around Columbia, said Fred Pryor, director of the association's Open Space Management division.
"Wherever we do this we want to be good neighbors with whoever isthere," said Pryor. He said the association was responding to vehement protests at a meeting attended by about 200 Columbia Hills residents Oct. 22.
"I think there's probably, in this kind of market, a lot of opportunities out there," even if the Rouse Co., which developed Columbia, doesn't have any suitable land it can donate for the facility, Pryor said. The Edgar Road site, just north of Route 108 and east of U.S. 29, was dedicated by the company as open space, which is automatically controlled by the association.
"I feel like they really are trying to work with us and they are concerned about our community," said Cathy Hartman, president of the Columbia Hills-MeadowbrookFarms Community Association. "We want to try and keep it very friendly and neighborly."
There was little of either at the October meeting, where Pryor presented plans for the facility at the request of County Councilman Darrel Drown.
"This was the first we had heard ofthis facility, and we didn't want to hear it," Hartman said. "We didn't feel like they had involved our community at all in their decision process."
While the site for the garage was dealt with in the association's public budget process, Columbia Hills is not part of Columbia.
By the time Columbia Hills residents learned of the facilitylast fall, the association had already spent about $100,000 in engineering work needed to obtain county approval for the project.
There were no technical problems with the site plan and it would have faced no impediments to approval if county planners had not decided to take it off the Planning Board's agenda over a "snag in procedure," said Marsha McLaughlin, deputy director of the county Department of Planning and Zoning.
Planners are waiting for an opinion from county lawyers on whether the planning board should have held a public hearing before approving a sketch plan of the site.
Although anyone could have testified on the issue at a regular board meeting, a public hearing would have been advertised for 30 days in newspapers and on a poster on the property.