Columbia Council Rep Report

CA Board Virtual Meeting June 25, 2020

CA Board of Directors

Virtual  Meeting

June 25, 2020



Click here  for Agenda and Packet


The Board continues to meet virtually due to Covid-19.


Resident speak -out

Christopher Toscano spoke about CA’s decision to not open the pools.  He was angry about how the decision was made and that it was made.  He said he and the community are angry to not open inclusive activities such as the pools.  He feels CA has failed the community.  He asks if there were other options.

Decisions should be made at a neighborhood level.  Members and stakeholders are not engaged in CA’s decision.  He asks for CA to present how CA came to this decision.  (I had asked Andy, as Chair, to respond to the questions.  Several Board members expressed concern about the poor communication that was sent out to the community.)

Joel Hurewitz spoke about how complicated it is to participate in resident speak out.  (Apparently, there is a button on the website for those who chose to listen to the meetings live.)   He spoke about e-scooters.

Two Easement requests were approved.  One is for a roundabout that the County will build at Tamar and Old Montgomery Rd.  There will also be an easement approved for Talbot Springs.


Policy on E- Scooters

There was a discussion about whether or not we can approve e-scooters in designated areas only.  The Maryland Transportation code defines these as vehicles even if they do not have a seat.  With a seat, it is more like a bicycle.   Enforcement would be left primarily to CA personnel.  Howard County police do check out the pathways but very infrequently.  It is difficult to enforce who does and does not use the pathway system with or without scooters.  People may be using scooters on the pathways regardless of what we approve.   It was suggested we try a pilot program in one area to determine how that goes.  It was suggested that CA needs to fine the scooter company for scooters that are left anyplace rather  than returning them to where they belong.   There are several concerns about the narrowness of pathways and danger of the scooters in the small areas.   The county permit process says the scooter company has 2 hours to pick up the scooters or the county can impound it.   If CA sees problems, the scooters would be picked up and taken to a central place.  If CA charges for the vehicles it becomes an administrative issue.

CA reserves the right to discontinue the right to use the pathways at any time.  Users must be over the age of 18.  There was concern raised that if CA has no authority over these e-scooters, this itself creates a problem.  Realistically, not everyone will treat these rentals responsibly. Enforcement, and benefit to residents are not clear.  At this time, we do not have a proposal from a company that we can scrutinize.   There is a company that CA staff is talking to, but we have nothing to work with at this time.  There was a lot of discussion about whether or not to accept e-scooters in Columbia.   There are two different recommendations from staff:

  1. Change policy to allow e-scooters,
  2. Address the issue of commercial e-scooters.  The Board agreed to have staff go back to the vendor who wants to bring in a scooter rental firm that will use CA pathways for the e-scooters.  The Board voted to not approve private use of e-scooters on CA pathways.


The $10 Pause Fee

Staff was asked about charging this fee.   A few minutes were spent on the issue; staff was essentially using a policy that  was made for the snowbirds.  This is a different situation.  We have never experienced a pandemic before.  We have asked staff to get us information as to their rational for the fee.  We will then try to cancel that fee and not allow the new increase in cost to those who rejoin.  We have 2500 people who have frozen their membership.   We need to work to gain the trust of our members.  We have not communicated well at all and then send a message to the community giving people 2 days to decide if they would pay the $10 a month to pause or else cancel their memberships.

As of 3 days ago, just under 2,000 people cancelled their membership.


A Board member suggested we create a communications committee that will focus on helping staff communicate much better with our community.


We have a lot to learn about how to communicate with our members and improve how we do that.


Board Discussion of CA Future

Who are our stakeholders?



We are an HOA.  We serve homeowners who pay the annual fee and commercial  owners who also pay the annual charge.   The villages work closely with CA and are a primary relative.



Outparcels and surrounding communities use our services.  We hare many services and are interconnected.   Visitors to Columbia are also potential customers.  We have users from neighboring counties.  Vendors also provide goods to CA.  We can use them as client and customers.


Allies –

This includes those who impact the community who help CA, such as the county and  state legislators; county services including fire and police, school system, health department;   Non-profits, religious services, arts group including cultural arts.  Hospital, and Chamber of Commerce.


Our Organizational Values and Principles

Exceptional, amazing, friendly, unique, diverse, quality, variety, sustainable, respectful of the land.

To complete a city we must provide a number of amenities such as diversity, cultural amenities, high density urban center, sound planning to benefit those who dwell and work in the city.  Respect the environment.  Handle natural resources with care.  Create a place where people can grow. Match our services with the county to further benefit our citizens.  Provide transparent communication.  It must be economically integrated and the buildings should be at a human scale.  Community involvement.


The CA Timeline – over the last 20 years.

What are we most proud of when we look back over CA’s history?  From 2000-2010 then from 2010 to 2020.

Our pathways have been improved and expanded.  They are well maintained including the pathway around Lake Kittamaqundi.  2010

Programs at the Lakefront until the pandemic are great ways to provide community.  2010.

Symphony Woods and the Chrysalis have provided more great ways to bring the community together.   2010

CA paid off the bonds in the 2010 decade.

Tennis facility and athletic club renovations and Hobbits Glen renovations 2010 decade.

The solar co-op has helped many homeowners add solar to their homes.

We addressed the issue of dredging.   CA also turned over the pond responsibility to the County.  This helps save CA a lot of money.  The County has taken on more responsibility for issues on and around Columbia.  Columbia residents pay County taxes and now we are seeing some benefit. This is an equity issue.

CA has many reasons to be proud.


Are there goals and objectives that CA hasn’t accomplished yet?

CA moving out of downtown.

Developing healthier relationships with the villages

Being more transparent in communication.

Board development

Budget Advisory committee – also standing committees.

Aquatics masterplan.  It included another indoor pool.

We gave up the City fair in favor of the Festival of the Arts.

We do not make adequate use of our advisory committees.

A minority business policy – goals were established.


The questions are:

Should we establish new goals as they relate to the current situation?

Within the new normal, and the new financial constraints, how do we identify challenges and opportunities?

How do we look in the next 6-12 months?  What challenges do we face in that time?

How do we communicate with everyone?  We need to use a variety of methods to reach the most people.   We don’t know what we don’t know.  We have to be flexible.

We need to determine the boundaries of the budget this summer.  At the same time, we need to decide what programs we may need to end because of lack of funds.

There will be fewer staff members because of the financial situation.  The Board needs clear financial information in a timely manner.  The Board has a lack of knowledge of revenue in these new conditions.

Over the next 2-5 years, we have the opportunity to decide what business are we in.   Should CA be in the business of running sports facilities?

Office buildings and new apartment buildings each have their own pools and fitness rooms.

The city is diverse.  How do we incorporate that into our programs?

The Columbia of 2020 is not the Columbia of 1970.

How do we develop leadership that looks like Columbia – diverse in many ways?


What does this mean to the future of Columbia?  What do the residents think of this?


CA Board and staff  are working hard to keep CA alive and well.   We make mistakes.  But we have huge constraints now.   I hope you will be patient with us as we struggle to improve and keep our city beautiful and our facilities open for all our members.


Happy summer




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