Columbia Council Rep Report

CA Board Work Session January 9, 2020

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

 Work Session Topics – CA Market Research Findings

CA did market research last year. Laura Sitler, CA, Chief Marketing Officer, hired GKV, a Baltimore based company to help with this research.  Awareness, reputation, and utilization of CA services were explored. GKV talked to people of all different demographics.   Total number of people who responded was close to 700.   Overall, the CA members and non-members have a positive perception of CA. The mission statement seems clear in people’s views.

The Haven has perception problems.  People still view it as an exclusive facility. This is something CA needs to change.

Member vs. non-member data was discussed.  There were close to 500 non-members and 200 members included in the survey responses.  Demographics are similar with the exception of age.  More millennials that are non-members filled out the survey.  All the questions were consistent amongst members and non-members.   There was no sampling bias between members and non-members.

More of the non-members had more children vs. members of the same age groups. For those interested in the market study, you are welcome to find it on the CA website  under the board packet for this meeting.

Please note that CA does not provide services such as trash pick-up which is the responsibility of Howard County government.  The village centers are privately owned mostly by Kimco.   Many residents still have misconceptions about what CA does vs. what the county does.  The CA website has a page titled “Who Handles What?” which describes the responsibilities for CA, the County and the Villages.  I encourage you to visit the page and read the information.

The biggest gap is between members’ use of pools.  Members’ numbers is much higher than non-members using the pool.

$50K has been included in the budget for each year for the board training.  This is critical and may actually happen in the upcoming fiscal year, though I’ve been asking for this for seven years now.

River Hill Village Board asked its representative to vote against upgrades to Columbia Gym and put the funds toward the renovations of neighborhood centers.  It doesn’t work exactly like this but demonstrates the community desire to keep these centers.

It appears income producing expenditures apparently take priority over community building issues in some people’s minds.   The Board needs to balance what CA means to the community vs. making money.

My individual priority is helping maintain the community that Columbia was built to provide.   I once again raised the issue of raising the annual charge to bring in the needed money.   It makes no sense to me that in order to provide the important neighborhood center upgrades, the Board has chosen to ignore raising the fee one penny for an average of $20 a year per household in annual fee.  For lower cost homes the fee will be lower and for more expensive properties the cost may be a bit more than $20.

I became very adamant about raising the annual charge, and getting in more money so River Hill or other Villages don’t have to vote against the $3,000,000 upgrades to Columbia Gym for the neighborhood centers.

CA should be able to fund the neighborhood centers with that one penny cost without negatively impacting other facilities and open space areas.   Columbia is changing in big ways.  But to hang on to its unique qualities, the Board must put community first and maintain the neighborhood centers which are an important aspect of what makes Columbia better than other cities of its size.

CA Board members would not be sitting at the board table if each person weren’t here for the community.  The Board is here to support community first.  I encourage you to read the mission and vision statements.  The Board should be supportive of the upgrades to facilities, but not to the exclusion of the people that live here.

It was suggested that the Board have policy discussions so in order to prepare for the next budget and to prepare the community for any changes going forward.  I have used these notes to attempt to prepare Wilde Lake residents and others not living in Wilde Lake that receive these notes.   I hope we can have these discussions so that we can be better prepared and make sure the community is informed with the opportunity to respond to potential changes.

Again, I am asking the stakeholders to please respond to me with your thoughts on changes to the annual charge paid to CA or any other issues you may see here.

In March, the Board will begin to prepare for the issues that it needs to deal with in the upcoming year.

Work Session Topics – Applicable State Legislation Discussion

The Board was made aware of developer contributions to campaigns of people running for elected office in Howard County.  These contributions are perceived as a bribe and should be stopped.

There is a bond issue that will be up for vote in House of Delegates to go for the construction of the Butterfly building in Symphony Woods. The county supports this bill.   The Inner Arbor has asked for this funding so this building can be built.  It will house restrooms and be a welcome center.  One board member asked for more information regarding the plans.  What will be included and what is the updated plan?

Developers have often paid a fee rather than build affordable housing when developing new areas like downtown.  There is proposed legislation that will eliminate the fee in lieu.   Affordable housing is needed and it is important to get developers to build what is needed.

Long Reach Village Center is in limbo.  If a buyer is found that is willing to renovate or rebuild, it seems to make little sense to put a lot of money into a kitchen or other facilities if the center will be rebuilt in the near future.  However, there is no way to know when this will happen.  There is a request for funding from the state for funds to help with an early childhood facility and renovation of a kitchen in the center.

Work Session Topics – Easement Requests

Kings Contrivance has a proposed adult community planned for Eden Brook and Guilford Roads.   If the developer chooses to become part of Columbia rather than an out parcel, the pathway will be brought to the community.  If they don’t, then the pathway will not be brought to the community.  The developer was represented by Mr. Levy.

There will be 24 age restricted homes built on this parcel.  Mr. Levy suggests that each homeowner should be able to choose or not to become part of Columbia.  However the Board feels that to benefit from CA pathways etc. they need to be lien holders.

Another easement was requested for an area in Sewells Orchard.  This easement would benefit the entire area and protect the pond.  The third easement will be requested for Hyla Brook because of water issues on Hyla Brook where flooding has taken place when it rains.

Happy winter.  Stay warm and safe.  Spring is coming.


Warm regards,


[email protected].