Columbia Council Rep Report

CA Board Meeting June 27, 2019

Columbia Association Board of Directors

Thursday, June 27, 2019


(The agenda and background materials can be found on the CA website.)

Resident Speakout

  • Joan Aron is opposed to changing the HOA to a CBA.  The community rejected this proposal in the past and it should not be under consideration now.  A change would create an unfair burden on lien holders.  The Board should move on to other issues.
  • Russ Swatek is opposed to changing CA to a CBA.  He doesn’t want CA to spend resources looking at it.  He says the CA Board should not have “secret” meetings.  (For the record, the Board does not have “secret” meetings.)
  • Liz Schoen does not want a CBA that includes businesses.  She feels that businesses get all the attention vs. residents.
  • Bill McCormack Jr. lives in Oakland Mills.  He suggests that CA hire an outside expert to lead the community and Board through the process of changing CA.  He wants a thorough vetting before any changes are made.  He also fears that CA will sell off the open space and then “good bye Columbia”.
  • Chris Alleva spoke about standing.  An appeal for the Royal Farms case gave standing to Brian England.  This will allow him to address how the NT zoning should be administered.   CB 33 clarifies who has standing to appeal.   He also said there is a waiver petition for a set back from 2 feet to 30 feet.  He also reported on FDP 158.  It is regarding Hammond High School.
  • Barbara Russell said she doesn’t think there is any issue important enough to change from an HOA to a CBA.  In 2000 there was an attempt to change the way the lien would be collected.  She said it was very confusing and created chaos.  She had asked the attorney general who said it was illegal to make the change in how the lien was collected.
  • Alex Hekimian from Oakland Mills sent a message to the community warning them of the CBA. He suggested it would be very damaging to CA public relations if the Board moved forward to learn of the implications of the CBA.  He said that the CA Board has been meeting in secret.  (This is false.   The CA Board has not been meeting in closed session since the public meeting that took place this past winter.). He says the CBA will only further damage CA’s reputation.  The Board should just drop it and not move forward.
  • Rebecca Palmquist is Board president of Wilde Lake Children’s Nursery which operates out of the Faulkner Ridge Neighborhood Center.   The school was created 50 years ago.  The members of the co-op are all Columbia residents.  They feel the value of these schools is huge.
  • Ginger Scott spoke about the CBA.  She lives in Wilde Lake.  Ginger says the staff wants to allow CA to morph into the CBA.  She asks what the staff didn’t understand about the residents’ rejection.  She reminded us that Frank Turner had come to a meeting about the CBA to hear from the crowd.  Ginger mentioned that it was Nancy McCord’s comments at that meeting that convinced her to support Nancy’s run for CA Board and for her and her husband to work on my behalf to get me elected to the CA Board.
  • Cynthia Coyle spoke about her past and about strategic planning.  She said the Board should never include in its strategic plan anything that the community does not desire.  After the winter meeting, the community made clear it does not want to hear any further about the CBA.
  • Dianne Beil, doesn’t know what is going on with this Board.  She says the president needs to leave and the Board needs to change.  She made it clear she doesn’t want the CBA.
  • Jervis Dorton is concerned about the CBA.  The community doesn’t want it.  He feels the ten priorities should not include the CBA.  The community has spoken.  The Board is interested in working with the Guilford Industrial Park.  He was glad to hear that.  He said we are looking at the master plan for Columbia.  He’d like to make that number two on the list after Guilford.
  • Joel Broida spoke about the CBA.  CBA no – HOA – yes.
  • Jill Crane doesn’t see why the CBA should be on the Board’s list.

Board Votes:  CA Board Work Plan/Strategic Initiatives for FY2020

  1. Identity
  2. Environmental Sustainability
  3. Leadership Development
  4. Resource Stewardship.
  5. Advocacy

The plan has been approved and will publish it on the website.  This will be reviewed annually to be certain we are working on these issues and the Board will receive an updates from staff.

The Board came up with ten items. They were whittled down to three that will be prioritized over the next year by looking at the following criteria:

  1. Is this issue essential for CA over the next 12 months?
  2. Is it desirable?
  3. Can it wait to be reconsidered during 2021?

The brainstorm list for the Board to choose the top topics for the year was not prioritized.  From this list we determined the top issues upon which the Board agreed.

Members discussed the three issues the Board voted would be the most critical to work on this year:

  1. The lien issue
  2. Facilities, i.e. neighborhood centers, Long Reach Village Center, Haven, Fairway Hills, tot lots
  3. Village/Staff/CA relations
  4. Master plan for Columbia. (This is fourth on the list so it depends on time if it will be able to be dealt with.

(To be clear:  the Board did not agree to continue exploring the CBA. Many of us, including the community as a whole, do not fully understand the implications of the CBA.  Exploration of an issue is a good thing.  It is unfortunate that the most vocal among us don’t agree. It is important that people verify information.  As President Reagan said, “Trust, but Verify!”  The email that went out to the community by a member of the community was simply inaccurate.)

Board Discussion:  Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan

The target budget for capital improvements for FY2021- FY2025 is $15 Million per year.

In the last two fiscal years $20 Million was spent.  The average per year is $14.4 million. Take out the last two years and the average is $12 million.    There are some major capital projects including the ice rink and major changes to the Columbia Gym.  Stone House and the Columbia Art Center will require major improvements.

The overpasses cost CA millions to be maintained.  It was suggested that CA may move to take them out of service.  This has not happened but because of the huge cost and the very infrequent usage, this may happen at some point in the future.

Board Discussion:  Ten-Year Financial Plan

This information, for those who are interested, is on the CA website under the packet for this evening’s meeting.  Bottom line – these projects are filled with assumptions.  It can be helpful but must be understood to be projections only.

Board Discussion:  Neighborhood Centers – Presentation

Many CA facilities have been reinvented over the past twenty years.  Most neighborhood centers were built in the early days of Columbia.  Three were built to act as village offices.   Hawthorn was built as a neighborhood center.   It is a village office.

For CA to continue to operate and maintain the neighborhood centers, many improvements are needed.  The buildings are on average 46 years old.  They require a good deal of updating and maintenance.  Dennis Mattey, CA, Director of Open Space and Facilities Services, and his team have gathered data over the past year to determine usage and conditions of the centers.

The older buildings have many inefficiencies.  The buildings are not built to today’s standards.  A couple had termites, others had other issues like mold.

Board members want to hear from Village Managers about what groups are using the neighborhood centers and what percentage of the time are the centers being used.   Board members were asked to talk to their Village Managers about the neighborhood centers for this information.

I suggested that this is an opportunity for Village Managers and the CA Board members to have a conversation about usage and what the Village Managers see for their centers.  It is an opportunity for CA to begin working with the Villages as well.   Many different groups use the centers for important community services.  Many of these groups cannot afford more expensive rentals.  We want to support the Columbia vision.  We need to remember our roots and our identity.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Happy July 4th everyone!  Enjoy the holiday.


Warm regards,


Nancy McCord

[email protected]