The Columbia Council chairman expressed dismay last night at residents' vehement reaction to a flexible proposal to restrict use of Hobbit's Glen pool to adults during certain hours.
"I heard some disturbing things tonight -- fear of 'the other.' I'm hearing that in so many aspects of Columbia life," Council Chairman John Hansen said at a Harper's Choice village board meeting which attracted about 60 residents.
The meeting room was overflowing, mostly with Hobbit's Glen neighborhood residents with children in tow who oppose exclusionary policies at the neighborhood pool. Several members of 1st Place, a Columbia singles organization, supported the proposal.
Mr. Hansen, a Harper's Choice resident, offered a new proposal last night -- reserving Hobbit's Glen pool for adults only after 6 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday, and on Monday after the pool is cleaned. The pool normally would be closed on Mondays.
"I don't see how that would be harmful," Mr. Hansen said. "I hope you won't be fearful of new ideas. I've heard that tonight."
In Columbia, where neighborhood pools rank closely behind hearth and home, some residents say the adults-only proposal goes against the city's family-oriented foundations.
"We went trudging through the snow for petitions for the purpose of having a unified neighborhood," said Hobbit's Glen resident Bonnie Hudak. "There are children here tonight well beyond their bedtimes."
Sue Senate, a 1st Place member, said the organization is "flexible" and suggested rotating adults-only times to different pools.
"We favor the concept," she said. "We're looking to [the Columbia Association] to determine the most feasible solution that impacts the least families."
The village board is expected to vote on a recommendation later to pass along to the Columbia Council, said chairwoman Hope Sachwald.
The Columbia Council is not bound by the village board's recommendation.
Village board member Laura Waters suggested convening a panel of Hobbit's Glen residents and 1st Place members to work on a "compromise" with the board. Hobbit's Glen residents balked at that idea.
The Columbia Association (CA), which operates Columbia's 21 outdoor pools, suggested that Hobbit's Glen would be an "attractive adult pool" because it is adjacent to the Hobbit's Glen Golf Club, The Racquet Club and the Coho Grill. CA is searching for ways to increase membership and revenue for the unprofitable pools.
Only two pools had lower attendance last summer than Hobbit's Glen.
CA suggested as one option that Hobbit's Glen pool could be reserved for adults 21 or over after 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, a suggestion which triggered protests.
Hobbit's Glen residents argued that children should not be excluded from their neighborhood pool and expressed concern about traffic, alcohol use and outsiders coming into the neighborhood.
Harper's Choice has two other pools, but residents say they want their children to be able to walk to the pool.
About 40 percent of Columbia adults are single, says a CA survey. More recreational opportunities are needed for singles, say 1st Place members.
Mr. Hansen and 1st Place members emphasize that the proposal could be a draw for all adults.