Columbia Council Rep Report

CA Board Work Session October 10, 2019

Columbia Association Board of Directors

Work Session

Thursday, October 10, 2019

NANCY’S NOTES  (Click here to view the agenda and background material.)

Resident Speakout
Peter Brunner spoke about The Village In Howard (TVIH).  The office is located in the Stevens Forest Neighborhood Center. There are now 180 members.  The center is critical to the mission of the organization. TVIH helps prevent isolation for older citizens.  It also helps those who remain in their homes with volunteers to help with various issues a senior may confront.

Paul Verchinski spoke about the Haven on the Lake.  He isn’t happy with it and thinks CA needs to get out of the deal.

John Klein is a member of the CA Climate Change and Sustainability and Watershed Advisory committees.  He is also speaking as a private citizen.  He spoke about the Lakefront North Development.  The committee looked at the complete streets policy.  Dredging of Lake Kitt is a significant cost but is important for the watershed.   There are now clams habitat in the bottom of the lake.
As a resident, he is concerned about building heights.  Both aesthetically, and air flow that has a direct impact on heat islands.   Variable heights allows for variable air flow.  This also helps with circulation.  There should not be a consistent building height.  Bird migration patterns should be taken into consideration.
He also spoke about the Haven.  He feels it is a healing environment for mind and body and compliments the other facilities CA now has.

Liz Hammon, 2nd VP of Running Brook Children’s Nursery, spoke about Running Brook Neighborhood Center.  She moved to Columbia and discovered the nursery school for her children.  Her life in Columbia flourished because of this nursery school. She found community there.  The school is a co-op so parents are involved and continue to help the surrounding community.   Running Brook wrote the book on resourcefulness.   They want to keep their school.

Whitney Schreiber also has children at Running Brook Children’s Nursery.  They love the co-op.   The elementary school is literally just up the hill so parents can take both children to school without running to another part of town.  Parents wanted to remain in their homes because of the neighborhood center.   The parents build a support network.  There are families from all over Columbia who use this facility.   This is the meaning of Columbia.  Building connections with other families is what it’s all about.

Gilby Kim also spoke on behalf of Running Brook Children’s Nursery.  He grew up in Columbia and appreciates that this part of town hasn’t changed much in 40 years.  There are many changes going on, but some things need to stay the same.

Leah Halle, President of the Running Brook Children’s Nursery School board spoke on behalf of the co-op.  It’s a strong group.  They love the school and the community.  She wanted us to be aware of the families that foster the feelings of community and all they do to make it work.  She says the mission of the school parallels that of CA.  It creates authentic feelings about community.  Exploring, role playing and communicating are the key means of helping these children grow.   They will be out future community one day.  They are licensed for 44 but currently serve 42 children.  83 percent live in Columbia.

Rebecca Beall, Harper’s Choice Community Association Board Member, quoted the CA website stating that CA exists to create a sense of community.   She was raised in Columbia and is here raising her family.  She spoke in support of Longfellow and Swansfield neighborhood centers that are used for daycare or churches and by individuals.  They are vital to nurturing community.  The aging infrastructure need to be considered and pricing is imperative.  But Columbia is a garden for growing people.
Rebecca spoke about the Haven.  Her father spends hours there daily.  It is a valuable facility for people like her father.

JoAnn Smetak is the teacher at Running Brook Children’s Nursery.  She has been there for 29 years. This is an extensive and meaningful community.  She says it’s a home for people who come back year after year.  She emphasized that it is not just a building.  It is a home.  It started as a center and remains a center.  She called the school a loving nest.

Rebecca Palmquist is Board president of the Wilde Lake Children’s Nursery at Faulkner Ridge Neighborhood Center for 2-4 year olds.  It creates a sense of community.  It was first established over 50 years ago.  There are three paid teachers and families participate to keep costs low.  Some neighbors walk to school.  Some come from other areas.  They are developing future leaders of our community.  It is quality, inexpensive, convenient and continues the concept of community.   There are six co-op nurseries in Columbia.

Nicole Lozare Huber said that Running Brook Children’s Nursery has served thousands of families.  She doesn’t live in Running Brook.  The school serves people from all over Columbia and Howard County.  It is more diverse because people come from all over the county.   She feels she has become a much better parent.  She says the teacher also educates the parents, not just the teachers.   The parents have gone on to volunteer in the schools when the children move on.   She says they are an investment.  We get dividends in the future as these children grow up.  Emphasis in community and investment in people is what makes a difference.  She says it is bad optics to have photos of families with signs that say Save Our Schools.

Isabela Lazard Huber is a youngster who attended Running Brook Children’s Nursery and whose brother is there now.  She loves the teacher.

Tina Addo, Long Reach Village Manager, came to speak on behalf of Long Reach Community Association and the neighborhood centers.  Jeffers Hill, Locust Park, and Phelps Luck neighborhood centers have parties and meetings and spread their good in the community.   They teach youth financial responsibility, police relations, and help young men get support so they can be successful.   A young leader from Baltimore County found Columbia because of our Neighborhood Centers.    One of the preschools has Spanish immersion.

Joel Hurewitz spoke about the neighborhood centers and numerous other items.

Alex Hekemian spoke about the neighborhood centers and Haven on the Lake.  He says CA has lost more on the Haven than on the neighborhood centers.  Therefore, he suggests CA cut its losses on the Haven.   He suggests CA HQ moves into the space at Haven.

Kevin McAliley spoke in support of the Wilde Lake neighborhood centers.

Eileen Brewer is a co-president of the Longfellow Nursery School.  They had moved twice in the past few years for a variety of reasons.  When they moved out of Longfellow, registration dropped.  When they returned, the registration improved.  Moving the co-ops does make a difference.  They have families from all over the county but staying in their home is beneficial.  They are low cost.  The only thing cheater is the county Rec program.

Kathy Bates spoke about Haven on the Lake.  She lives outside Columbia.  She loves the Haven.  She is there five days a week.  She suggests that Board members should not make a decision about the Haven without trying it.

Kathy Blackman spoke about the co-op preschools.  Her children are much older but she spoke glowingly of the schools and how important they were for her children.

Laura Davis spoke about Haven on the Lake.  She says if people had known there was concern about the Haven there would have been a lot of people here.  She loves it.  It’s a Haven from the world or like going on vacation.   She hopes CA will save the Haven.  There is no advertising.  It is Columbia’s best kept secret.

Chris Sakelaris moved back to Columbia two years ago and has two young children.  He found the Bryant Woods Montessori and his son is doing well.  Now his 3 year old is going there.  The location is great and integrated into the community.  This is the only Montessori accredited school.  There are children aged 3-6.  Having them in a neighborhood is much better than at a strip center or commercial center.

Phil Engelke spoke about Stevens Forest neighborhood center.  Since 1972 it’s been in use.    He and his wife are members of the Haven.  He loves the facility.  He feels it would be a great loss to give it up at this point.   He expected special events like cooking demonstrations.  Classes are difficult.  He feels it is a good idea but not thought through.  He feels it’s running a lot better.  You can get yoga anywhere but no place is like the Haven located in a beautiful spot in the middle of Columbia.

Mercy Luguterah spoke about the neighborhood centers.  She is the director of Bryant Woods Montessori School. She felt there is no community if we don’t have a place for people to come together.  There is great diversity which alone is a great experience for the children.  In this small school, the sense of community is “priceless.”  Getting rid of the centers will create other problems.

Mary McGraw spoke about the Stevens Forest neighborhood centers.  She is a senior.  She says we need to look after the seniors.  In 2020, 25% of the population will be seniors.  If we can come together to be of service to each other and the community.  Mary is the founder of TVIH.   If it hadn’t been for the neighborhood centers they don’t know where they would have gone or if they would have flourished.

Work Session Topics: Next Steps for Haven on the Lake, including recommendations
There was discussion about the money that CA is losing annually by the high rent and the lower attendance for the Haven.  There was trouble with the spa that was there initially so there was significant loss when that closed.   Now the Board needs to decide how to move forward and cut losses.  One option is to renegotiate the lease or sublet.  Another option is to find a spa to replace the one that folded.  Finally, another use of the space could be found.  There are 5.5 years left on the lease.  It could be converted into a fitness center.  Operationally it would be the easiest but the market doesn’t seem to be there downtown.

CA staff is considering bringing in a company to manage the spa.  It would be paid a flat fee but the money from the spa would go to CA. The spa is a key driver for membership.   10% membership was lost because of the loss of the spa.  The spa brings in ancillary revenue.   One thought is to put a small hotel-like fitness center in one area of the Haven’s large open area.  This would help give a complete experience.

Work Session Topics:  Neighborhood Centers
Thank you to the villages for providing the information for the upcoming discussion on the centers.
Next steps include possibly looking at each center separately or developing an overall policy.  I supported looking at each separately.  However, it was suggested the Board have an overall view to look at all of them.

There was discussion about varying ways to save some or all the centers.  It has a sense of place.  It provides a community gathering place and is affordable.  This is key and needs to be respected.  CA also needs to create a plan to update one or two centers a year until they are all up to date.  Then a plan is needed to determine how to keep them updated moving forward.  One Board member spoke about money.  I had suggested that if the annual charge was raised one cent it would cost an average of $20 a year for each home on assessed property.  This is one way to raise $500,000 that would have a minimum impact on stakeholders.

Each Board member will submit their thoughts on the criteria in maintaining/updating the neighborhood centers.  Two weeks is the deadline.

Work Session Topics:  Lakefront North Neighborhood Final Development Plan
The FDP for this area will be updated in all likelihood.  But the current plan is that there will be two large medical or health buildings where the current building behind the hidden Exxon station is and where the parking lot is for that building.  There will be structured parking incorporated into the building.  The Board reviewed the plan for the area that includes some major changes.

Board Votes – Strategic Priority No. 4 – President/CEO’s Strategic Initiatives for FY2020

The Board discussed a task for the President that includes an event that encourages leadership and diversity into the future.  Means of communicating with various aspects of the community is being explored.  Some members think this should not be pursued.  Others think ways of getting together with members of the community should be explored.  Some want to explore partnering with an organization.  Some believe we should focus on diversity.  Others think that’s a very difficult goal that is hard to create.


Nancy McCord

Wilde Lake representative to the Columbia Council.

Email address:   [email protected]