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River Hills marina plan fails

LAKE WYLIE -- The River Hills Marina Board came about as close as it could Friday to passing a community vote to remove its current business center and put up condominiums. Just not close enough.

"The River Hills Marina is quite disappointed over the fact that, although we did receive the majority of the vote -- over 64 percent of the vote -- that we did fail in reaching the 66 and two-thirds percent required for a deed change," said marina board president Charles Wood.

River Hills bylaws require two-thirds approval of at least 500 voters to make major changes within the community. On Friday, a vote that would have added a three-story condominium project at the current site of the marina business center received 953 votes in favor against 534, for 64 percent approval.

Supporters of the plan said $2 million in community improvements would come at no cost to the community if approved, everything from road repairs to marina improvements and resident fees. Opponents said no other options to the plan were presented. Supporters say there is no money for many of the marina improvements, opponents that the marina has reserve money that could be used, especially when construction costs are down with the economy.

"The democratic process has been served," said Mike Kordecki, one of a handful of residents organizing against the plan. "So many residents of River Hills determined that's not the best option."

In the final days before the vote, a group of residents presented a counterplan to the condominium project that would create a community park on the same property with a promenade, arbor, picnic shelter and restroom with showers. The group, known as Citizens to Preserve and Protect the Marina, billed what they call Water's Edge Marina Park as improvements without risk, condos or assessments.

"Most folks fall in, let's make sure there are no alternatives to the condos," Kordecki said. "We're not against the condos 100 percent. We're against having no other options without the financials to back it."

Catawba Riverkeeper David Merryman, whose environmental group advocates for and against projects all along the Catawba River, had backers and opponents of the plan asking for his support prior to the vote. Merryman did not commit to either stance.

"I'm not getting into their internal decision on what to do with their property," he said prior to the vote Friday. "I will say from a river perspective, a park would be more protective of Lake Wylie than just replacing one building with another building, but that's their decision to make."

Merryman committed to whatever plan would be chosen, saying the Riverkeeper foundation would work closely to make sure construction impacts to Lake Wylie would be minimal.

"I do plan on working closely with them, whatever decision they make," he said last week. "It's a good opportunity to help the lake moving into the future."

Following a meeting Monday morning, the marina board came away with "no plans at this time, but is considering its options about moving ahead," Wood said.

"We're disappointed because it would have been a win-win-win for the community association, the River Hills Country Club and the River Hills Marina had it passed," Wood said. "Now that's not to be unless we can come up with another idea."

Kordecki's group plans to begin fundraising for restrooms at one of the community parks that would have been part of the marina board proposal. While Kordecki understands that his group "bruised a lot of egos" with their opposition, he would like to see the issue wait some time before coming back for any kind of vote. Yet, he expects otherwise.

"I think it's one that's going to keep going," he said. "That would probably hurt the community right now. Once the democratic process is over, it should be finished."