CA considers freezing prices for recreation Annual admission plan would apply to residents only, budget proposal says


As the Columbia Association finalizes its $49 million spending plan for the coming fiscal year, the huge homeowners association is considering a plan that would freeze yearly admission prices to its recreation facilities.

The freeze would apply only to Columbia residents, those who already pay property liens to the CA each year. For a $180,000 house, the annual lien amounts to $657.

Even if the CA votes to raise fees for residents, the increases would be modest -- in some cases less than 1 percent -- according to the proposed budget.

Under this plan, the residential family "Package Plan I" rate -- which includes use of both health clubs, all pools and other facilities -- would go from $567 to $576, an increase of 1.6 percent, according to the proposed budget.

The association is proposing slightly larger increases for the prices that non-Columbia residents pay to use Columbia's facilities. A family "Package Plan I" rate, for example, would increase from $979 to $1,050, an increase of 7.3 percent, according to the proposed budget.

In discussions last week, the 10-member governing board discussed a number of rate plans -- talks that focused on CA's efforts to make money off nonresidents. The CA board will vote on the entire budget this month.

Board member Alex Hekimian, who represents Oakland Mills village, has called repeatedly for a greater difference between resident and nonresident rates. He is troubled by real estate advertisements that encourage people to buy homes on the edge of Columbia -- thus avoiding paying CA as- sessments while living close enough to use the facilities.

Hekimian said that even if freezing the rates doesn't save residents much, it would be a nice gesture. "As we prepare to celebrate Columbia's 30th birthday," Hekimian said, "an appropriate way to say thank you to Columbia's residents would be to hold the line on their recreational membership rates and community service fees for [fiscal] 1998."

But the slight increases add up to a lot of money.

CA staffers calculate that freezing rates would mean $94,159 less for CA coffers. The staffers point out that the slight increases are less than the rate of inflation.

CA board Chairman Mike Rethman said a $9 yearly savings for residents is not necessarily worth it -- given the context of the CA's total finances.

"It's hard to argue against this, but I think it's the wrong move," Rethman said.

Rethman also criticized Hekimian's proposal for steeper rate increases for nonresidents, saying the rates are set to get the most money from nonresidents.

Large increases would cause too many nonresidents to cancel their memberships, say Rethman and others on the board.

He favors a new "CA dollars" proposal, which essentially would give small rebates to Columbia residents if the association finishes the year with excess money.

Pub Date: 2/10/97

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