Columbia Council Rep Report

CA Board Meeting January 23, 2020

Nancy’s Notes

(Click here to view  Agenda and Background Packet)

 Resident Speak Out

Lisa Scata -Longfellow co-op spoke on behalf of the Neighborhood Centers.   She said we live in a time of separations. We need to create opportunities for people to come together.  She says it’s unfortunate that there have been thoughts of reducing or removing these centers

She regrets that the Village Board/ CA meeting about neighborhood centers (last Thursday evening) wasn’t open and communicated to users of these centers.  She complained about the survey on neighborhood centers.  She felt the questions were biased.  She felt the financial questions were not representative of how the centers are funded.  She spoke of CA’s mission and vision and that removing the centers would not comply with these.  She feels we need to create further transparency.

Ilene Jallo is director of a Spanish language immersion program, Kiddie Mundo, in Locust Park Neighborhood Center.  The school is also part of a national organization on going green.  She loves Columbia partly because of the neighborhood centers.  Her kids are in Phelps Luck.  She is a neighbor in Columbia.  She wants to keep our Neighborhood Centers.

Mae A. Beale has lived in Columbia for 40 years.  She has a group that meets at the community centers.  They put backpacks together for students that need support. There are a number of activities for children that need to have extra services and help.

She said the centers are like people’s homes.  They need to be maintained and renovated.  These centers are utilized by a myriad of groups and are essential to members of the community.

Genie Wessel of Wilde Lake said she visited the neighborhood centers all over Columbia.   She saw 3 and 4 year olds doing a science experiment.  She saw children of various ages chatting away in Spanish.  They will be ready for Howard County schools.  Children were doing real honest play.  They had a place to go every day and they loved it.  They had a stable place to go each day.  It would take away security.  These buildings are theirs.  It’s worth it because these centers are being used and have great value to benefit the community.

Pat Hersey said she is happy that CA is taking steps to be more environmentally friendly.  They showed a “water buddy” that will further help Columbia go green.    She stressed we need to do everything to solve this climate emergency.

Alice Niefeld is with Less Plastic Please.  This year is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.  She is hoping to have an event with other environmental groups in Howard County.  She hopes to promote Earth Day with the help of CA.

Paul J Baicisch is chair of Our Revolution, a climate group.  He is asking for county wide dialogue and cooperation.  CA is leading by example.  He made suggestions for CA that may further sustainability.  He hopes the county will participate with CA in various ways.  Ecoworks has worked with Wilde Lake and is going to work with Long Reach.

Joel Hurwitz spoke about some issues regarding permits and village centers and a variety of bills. He feels CA should have electric vehicles.

Marie Christina Gomez spoke about concerns about losing the Neighborhood Centers.  She moved back to Columbia because of the schools at the Neighborhood Centers.  It is close and her children get a good education.

Eden Brook Easement

A new 55+ plus community is planned for Eden Brook and Guilford Rd corner in Kings Contrivance.  The developer has agreed to become part of Columbia and will thus get the easements that will help enhance the property he is developing.  CA has asked that robust plantings be included in the easement agreement that was approved by the board.

CA Community Grants Policy

CA will give $100K to the Community Foundation to provide grants to certain Columbia organizations to support Columbia residents for specific purposes.   CA has given this amount or more to the foundation for a number of years.

There will also be $60K, not to exceed $25K for one organization, to be awarded by the Director of Community Services. The President/CEO who will inform the Board when the grants are given.   The Board discussed various items of the new policy with some disagreement on a couple of issues.  This will be revisited and voted on at another meeting.

April Stakeholder Dinner

The Chair and another member of the Advisory Committee are going to be invited to join the CA Board and senior staff at our April Stakeholder Dinner.

Neighborhood Centers

There was discussion about extending the timeline for making a decision on the Neighborhood Centers.  There has been a lot of negative feedback from CA residents and members who have gotten the survey that was so poorly done.   I suggested that the CA Board got a black eye from this survey that needed much more work before it was sent out to the community.  People confused village centers, community centers and neighborhood centers.  There was no explanation of what the various centers are.  People saw the costs but were not told how they are currently used.

The discussion this evening demonstrated that the majority of Board members want to allow villages to  decide what they want to do with their neighborhood centers.  There was some disagreement but basically it seems the Board wants to make this decision sooner than later.  We have been discussing this topic for two years.  It’s time we make a decision and move forward.   We have had a number of residents come to resident speak out and tell us of the great value of these neighborhood centers to our community.   There may be one or two centers that aren’t currently used but the question is why not?  Could it be their condition?  If it is a matter of condition, then they need to be updated and renovated so we can put them to good use.  One village manager suggested that children of lower income families may use the centers for arts programs.  There could be dance lessons, or theatre programs added to the list of uses that would benefit even more people.  Removing these centers is not the answer.  Updating and finding good uses for them is what is needed.  Yes, it will cost money.  CA has the means to provide the money.  The next question is “what is the priority’?   Is it community?  Or is it money?

Legislative Update

The Board voted to send a letter to the Howard County delegation supporting three issues they are considering this year.

  1. The Board supports a limit on developers’ contributions to the Howard County zoning board.
  2. The Board supports a prohibition on fees in lieu of development of moderate income housing units (MIHU).
  3. The Board supports a state grant for the Inner Arbor Trust to get drawings for the welcome building near the Chrysalis that will include restrooms and perhaps an art exhibit center. The building cost is now thought to be in the area of one million dollars vs. 6 or 7 million as was originally planned.

Open Space Presentation

Dennis Mattey, Director of Open Space, showed photos of some of the work his team has done to continue to upgrade bridges, and various areas that needed work.  He also showed the Board other upgrades to be made or already made to various properties that CA owns, including a new sound system for Slayton House, a new roof on Stone House,  lobby upgrades to Kahler Hall, a new tribe room in the Columbia Gym, work on a dehumidifier at the Athletic Club, etc.   The work never stops.

Howard County and CA have worked together to finally create a safer Hyla Brook in the Birches.  The work was completed in mid -January.  there should no longer be any flooding in that area.   Thank you to Dennis Mattey of CA and China Williams in Deb Jung’s office for helping make this repair happen.

Spring will be here in another two months.  We can do this.  Hang in there everyone.



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