The Harper's Choice village board approved a plan last night to try adult-only hours at two or more Columbia pools for one summer, settling at least temporarily an issue that has galvanized the Hobbit's Glen community.
The pilot program to restrict pools use to adults only for certain hours would be implemented at the Hobbit's Glen pool in Harper's Choice and at least one of Columbia's 20 other outdoor pools.
For the third time this month, a throng of Hobbit's Glen residents attended a board meeting to oppose a proposal to designate the Hobbit's Glen pool as the only one in Columbia with times reserved strictly for adults.
A Columbia singles organization, Columbia Council Chairman John Hansen and several village board members have advocated options that might increase memberships at some of Columbia's lesser-used pools and serve different segments of the population.
The Hobbit's Glen pool was singled out for consideration because of its relatively low attendance, lack of amenities and proximity to Columbia golf and tennis clubs.
The residents expressed resentment last night that their position had been interpreted as "elitist." They said they don't wish to exclude anyone from their neighborhood pool, but that their families should not be excluded either.
They said they have been willing to consider the concept as long as other Columbia neighborhoods were included.
The board's vote is merely a recommendation to the Columbia Council, which has the authority to establish new policies at Columbia facilities.
Village board member Heather D'Amore's proposal includes these other provisions:
* Adult-only times would be scheduled only on days when the trial pools otherwise would be closed.
* The Hobbit's Glen and Longfellow pools, which are near each other and closed on the same day, would be closed on different days instead.
* Improvements would be made to the Hobbit's Glen pool, such as adding a snack bar, to make it more appealing.
* Alcohol sales or use would be prohibited.
* An expansion of the pilot program would involve increasing the number of participating pools, rather than increasing adult-only hours at the trial pools.
The proposal would "limit the impact to any one neighborhood," said Ms. D'Amore.
The Columbia Association, which operates Columbia's recreational facilities, has been seeking ways to increase attendance at pools and generate more revenue.
The pools operate at a $1.5 million loss annually, once interest and depreciation costs are included.
Hobbit's Glen resident Bonnie Hudak argued that if financial considerations are the main issue, then more research and marketing studies should be performed before changing policies.
Village board member Clem Aquilea pointed out that at least one positive thing has come from the monthlong flap: Two Hobbit's Glen residents have filed to run for village board seats in the April 24 election, "which we haven't gotten for years," she said.
Several residents said they were disappointed in how the village board handled the issue, contending that members were disregarding their concerns.
Ms. D'Amore said the proposal approved last night shows that the process works and that the board did heed residents' concerns.
"I think we got a workable solution," she said.