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River Hills residents decide on marina club plan May 8

LAKE WYLIE -- Both sides are optimistic going into the final push for public support in the River Hills Marina Club proposal that could add 23 condominiums by removing the existing business center. River Hills property owners will decide May 8.

"I'd say we're optimistic," said Charles Wood, president of the River Hills Marina Club Board of Directors. "I wouldn't say it's a slam dunk."

Wood's group needs two-thirds of at least 500 property owners to vote in favor of its plan to add the three-story condominium project. Following months of public meetings, the marina club rallied its 200 slipholders and planned phone calls last week hoping to stir support.

"I don't think meeting a quorum will be a problem," Wood said.

Opponents of the plan also believe turnout will not be an issue. Steve Kelly, whose engineering business occupies more of the current business center than anyone else, said several neighbors are drumming up opposition to the plan.

"My personal opinion, I don't think it stands a chance," Kelly said. "In this neighborhood you can't get two-thirds of anything. You can't get 50 percent of anything."

Wood sells the plan based not only on what the condominiums will bring for a few dozen residents, but what the project will bring to the entire community. A total impact of $2 million will come at no expense to River Hills homeowners, split into $840,000 for the marina, public park, boardwalk, bridge and seawall, $400,000 for road impact fees and walking paths, restrooms and pavilion at the children's park and lighting for four tennis courts just beside the marina property.

"If this does not pass, there is a possibility over the next 10 years that the residents of River Hills would be facing a $2 million assessment," Wood said. "And it's possible the marina may fall into public hands."

Ricardo Bach, another opponent of the plan, says removing the business center to put up condominiums does not fit in River Hills. He calls some efforts to persuade him toward the plan "borderline insulting."

"I still think it is out of character for River Hills," Bach said.

He says many of his neighbors will vote against the plan, especially given the current economy. Building now, he said, is not wise because the economy might keep people from buying into the condominiums.

"Wait it out until the crisis is over and then let's talk about it," Bach said.

Throughout the process, however, Wood said interest has been coming in from buyers. Once filled, River Hills could expect an additional $34,000 in annual association fees. But mostly, Wood said, not pursuing the plan would leave the marina -- in need of repairs from years of service -- without a viable plan for moving forward.

"We think this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said. "The marina does not have the money to pay for these things."

The last time so large a vote for River Hills homeowners took place, more than the needed 500 people cast ballots and a two-thirds majority came out on top. A community beautification plan brought out 1,555 voters in 2007, with 65 percent voting against the plan.

The marina club plan vote for River Hills property owners will be held from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 8 at the community association office.

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