Columbia Council Rep Report

CA Board Meeting October 25, 2018

These notes reflect Nancy’s viewpoint only.
The official minutes of the Columbia Association Board meetings can be found on the CA website at: 
Nancy encourages you to send her your comments on her notes. Please reply to her directly at [email protected] 


(Click here to view the agenda and background material.)

Resident Speakout

Ginger Scott, Wilde Lake resident, spoke about Fairway Hills Golf Course.  She has several suggestions as to how to remediate the problems with flooding on the course.  She submitted her testimony to be included with the minutes of this meeting.

Tom Scott, Wilde Lake resident, said the community should be included in the potential changes to the golf course.  The community adjacent to the course has not been informed of the potential changes.   He also spoke of a pontoon bridge that would not be destroyed when it floods. He thought this type bridge should be considered along with the other types of bridges. Tom also suggested that the course become open space as it was before.  The neighbors used it – children and adults.  He would like to see that open space or a family amenity put in the space.

Report from the CA Representatives to the Inner Arbor Trust Board of Directors

The Symphony of Lights will return again this year bringing some revenue to the Trust. The activities at the Chrysalis are increasing.

Board Votes: Next Steps for the Fairway Hills Golf Course

Dan Burns, CA Director of Sports and Fitness, spoke to the Board about the golf course.  Fairway Hills was a dormant private golf course before it became a CA facility.  If the bridges aren’t replaced, there will be fewer golfers on the course.  The course is already down about 10,000 rounds which is 1/3 of the number of rounds usually played there.  If the bridge is replaced, then more rounds can be gained.

If the Board agrees to changes, Dan said he would include the community surrounding the course to give its input.  It will take time to determine the future of the course.  In the meantime, CA needs to replace the bridge that is inconveniencing players and costing CA the loss of 1/3 of the usual golfers on that course.

Board Votes:  Three Easement Requests from Howard County

The Patuxent Branch Trail pathway was discussed.  It was suggested that a contingency on the easement be included which means that CA approve the landscaping to be included.  The easement for the pathway was approved by the Board with a vote of 8-2.

CA granted three other easements to the county.  This will benefit CA and the county.

Board Discussion:  Gateway Redevelopment as an Innovation District

There is a new vision for Columbia Gateway.   In the past, there were suburban office parks.  More recently, to keep office parks vital, it has become a place for larger corporations to share information with startups.  Residences and retail will bring more vitality to an area that normally closes at 5 pm and weekends.   These districts could be around universities or hospitals.  Gateway would be a good place to originate a multi-use space with a variety of purposes because of its proximity to I-95.

This is an economic development that has nothing to do with zoning.  It is about having amenities and workforce housing desirable to young workers.  Access to transit, amenities and residential are not present in Gateway.  In order to develop these things a plan must be created.  CA is a major landowner in Gateway.  This directly impacts CA financially.

Route 1, Downtown Columbia, and Maple Lawn are the three major economic and employment areas.  Where does Howard County grow next?  Gateway is 920 acres.  It is a large chunk of land that could have a large economic impact.

Howard Hughes, Abrams Development, Columbia Association and others are the owners of this land.   The proposal is not to have Gateway compete with downtown.   There is also concern about how this becomes a part of Columbia.  920 acres will not be built in one fell swoop – but it will be planned and eventually built.

How does Gateway Innovation District impact Columbia and the villages?  The question was asked by three of the Board members and there was no answer.  The location of Gateway just off I-95 and between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore makes it an ideal location.  The enthusiasm is there to fuel economic growth for the area.  However, again, how does this tie into Columbia?   Jobs are a good thing.  Real estate options? There are a number of questions as to how we keep the vision of Rouse alive in the newly proposed area that is being built for its economic impact without concern yet about its social impact.

There are 216 acres of surface parking, 155 acres of building footprint out of 920 acres.  There is still a lot of space to grow.   Compact development with bike friendly environment where people can walk or ride a bike to work is an attractive location for many younger workers.

The timing on this development is important.  Discussions will begin next year with the county and developers. CA needs to be prepared and take a place at the proverbial table.

As Columbia grows, the concept of Columbia and Rouse’s vision seems to be getting diluted by today’s developers’ vision of Columbia today and tomorrow.   Some ideas from Board members suggested making this a place for young workers to buy small houses or residences that would be affordable for younger workers just starting out.   We need to be creative and coming up with ways to bring this area into the philosophy of Columbia and to integrate it without making it a competitive location.

Board Discussion:  Communication Process for Board Queries Received Via CA’s Website

Laura Sitler, CA Chief Marketing Officer, spoke to the Board about the website.  On the Board of Directors page, there is a link next to the red arrow located on the right side of the page. People can easily contact the entire Board by clicking on the link next to the red arrow.

The Board gets a lot of questions and concerns from residents (11-12/month).   Some months are much higher depending on the issue.  The marketing department responds to most of the queries and sends its responses to the Board.  It has become cumbersome when one or two Board members respond to the resident in their own voices or opinions.  It becomes complicated because the Board members who respond are not speaking for the Board.  So residents think that it is the Board’s response.  It isn’t the Board response.  It is one person’s response.

Board Discussion:  Capital Projects and Open Space Update (Symphony Woods)

Open Space within New Town means all lands devoted to raising crops, golf courses, lakes, rivers, streams, outdoor recreation, schools and libraries which are devoted to public and community uses.  It must be larger than two acres in size.  36% of the land that is New Town zoned is credited as open space.   36% is the minimum amount of open space. Open space does not include parking lots, streets, rights of way, amusement parks, golf driving ranges not ancillary to golf course or drive in movies (remember them)?

All lands approved and credited as Open Space use on the Final Development Plan of the NT district shall be conclusively presumed to satisfy the percentage of open space.  60% of the Open Space is owned by CA.  20% is owned by the government.  The rest is owned by schools or other owners, i.e. HRD owns 5%, Board of Education owns 8%, and various other owners makes up the last 7%. Columbia has 5,100 acres that make up the 60% of open space.

The Board discussed Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods Management Guidelines.  There are stressed trees, deeply eroded areas and streams that are in need of care going forward.   There are 36 acres and 1,400 trees in this area.

The guidelines for management of the land is being created.   The goal is to provide a guide as to how the land will be used going forward.   The activities must be balanced with the physical needs of the soil and ecology of the park.  There are approximately 38 trees per acre.

The festivals and activities have a very negative impact on the turf.  After each event the land must be restored as much as possible.  A permanent pathway is needed to prevent the damage over and over again.  There is currently a plan that includes IAT, IMA, Downtown Partnership, and Howard County Government putting in pathways or portions of pathways to keep people off the land.   There are also plans to work with the various stakeholders to schedule activities that will give the land an opportunity to recover from misuse and have less intense scheduling and to include the state and county to help with stream restoration.

Please note that there will one  meeting of the CA Board in November due to Thanksgiving.  The Board  will meet on November 8.  Those wishing to attend are welcome.

Enjoy the crisp fall weather.

Nancy McCord

[email protected]