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Environmental issue is concern for tot lot in River Hill village Building near stream bed to be evaluated by board


The 1 1/2 -year battle over a proposed tot lot in Columbia's River Hill village continues -- with environmental concerns now at issue.

The latest question: Can the lot be placed next to a stream bed?

Members of the Howard County Board of Appeals, a land-use regulatory body, will inspect the site and decide early next month, said Thomas Carbo, a county attorney, after a board meeting Thursday on the tot lot plans.

The Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning had ruled that the lot could not be placed so close to a stream bed. The Columbia Association appealed.

For some residents, the proposed site is too close to their houses, some of which range above $400,000 in price.

The Columbia Association -- the huge homeowners' group that builds trails and tot lots and manages Columbia's "open space" between residential areas -- has proposed three different tot lot sites in River Hill. Some nearby homeowners have objected to at least two of the sites.

The latest proposed site would be 30 to 50 feet from Joan Varga's house, she said yesterday. She said that is so close her child could not nap -- with the windows open -- if other children were playing.

"We're not anti-tot lot," Ms. Varga said of the 12 to 14 homeowners in her neighborhood who she says object to the lot. "We're not anti-child. In fact, we all have children. We just don't want to be subjected to such a public space."

The latest proposed tot lot site is between Red Clover Lane and Winter Grain Path on the west edge of Columbia.

Efforts to reach planners with the Columbia Association were not successful Friday.

In the past, former River Hill village board Chairwoman Kathy Ruben has said the board would move slowly on the tot lot issue to make the best decision for the developing community's future.

"It's unfortunate that they [residents] have become so emotional about it, really," Ms. Ruben said at the time.

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