Columbia Council Rep Report

CA Board Work Session September 12, 2019

Columbia Association Board of Directors

Work Session

Thursday, September 12, 2019


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

Resident Speakout

Peter Brunner, Wilde Lake resident, talked about The Village in Howard (TVH).   Peter spoke about the relationships TVH has formed with other organizations for the purpose of enhancing the mission to help older adults live more enriched lives while remaining in their homes.  He asks that CA continues to support TVH.  For the last 3 years TVH has received $25,000 a year which represents about 30-40% of its budget.

Columbia Festival of the Arts was represented by David Phillips, Executive Director.  David thanked CA for the support for the free LakeFest annual event.  This past year, CA granted the Festival $95,000 compared to $115.000 granted in previous years.   Howard County Arts Council, the County and other groups and individuals have helped fill in the gaps and have supported the Festival over the years.  Clyde’s and the Soundry had record sales during the festival.   With all the activities, and fabulous talent, the Festival brings in people from all over the area which means businesses overall do better when the Festival is in town.  The film festival showed more than 50 films.  Thousands of people enjoyed the iconic events held in various venues helping to make Columbia the unique and special place it is.

By combining three groups – Columbia Festival of the Arts, Inner Arbor Trust, and Downtown Cultural Arts group – the hope is to better coordinate and facilitate events.   Because of the reduction in funding from CA this year, the Festival lost its cushion to carry it through the winter.   The organization has to borrow money to get good talent, then scramble to have enough funds to pay off the loans. The Festival asks CA to renew the funding from 2018 which was $115,000 out of a total budget of $500,000.

Paul Verchinski, Oakland Mills resident, spoke as a member of the CA Senior Advisory Committee.  He talked about how CA stopped funding the Village in Howard.   He asks that CA maintain financial support for TVH.

Bill McCormick, Oakland Mills resident, spoke about budget requests for Oakland Mills Community Association.

Nina Basu spoke for Long Reach Community Association about budget requests.

Nina Basu also spoke as President & CEO of the Inner Arbor Trust.  She thanked CA for the grants that have contributed to the success of the IAT and the community use of the Chrysalis. There are lots of free family programs.  There is also a cabaret series with seated shows that bring local groups and talent.  The new pathway is expected to be fully built before the next season begins.  The second pathway is funded by Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks who is anticipating funds can be released by end of this month to construct another portion of the pathway.  Slowly but surely the park is coming together while putting on great events for families, children, and adults throughout the season.

Work Session Topics – Briefing on the Grants Process

Michelle Miller, CA Director of Community Services, spoke to the Board about ways to partner and provide grants with support of grant makers.  The total CA budget is approved in February.  Once approved, Milton and Michelle make recommendations for what organization will be funded.   However, the Board has, at this time, no say as to whom gets funded and how much, except for the major funds that go to the Downtown Partnership or the Inner Arbor Trust.  I think the Board needs to have more say about how this money is allocated.

There was discussion and questions from the Board about what the criteria are or how decisions are made to create the funding for organizations.  Susan Krabbe, CA Vice President/Chief Financial Officer and Michelle decide how much goes into the pot of grant money once the budget is approved.

The Board has strategic goals and the grants should be in line with those goals.

CA grants are funded according to the budget.  There is a two month window for which organizations can apply for the grants.  I raised the proposal that a Board member or two sit on the committee that makes the grant decisions.  The Board has not been informed previously as to who is getting the grants.  This is the Board’s budget. The Board should be involved in deciding who gets what money from the CA process.

Beverly White Seals spoke to us.  She is the Executive Director of Community Foundation of Howard County. Over half the grants of the Foundation have gone to Howard County organizations.    15-20 residents are on the grant committee.  It is a complex process certified by the council on foundations. It takes a lot of expertise to do grant making in a fair way.  The money that is distributed is half CA and half unrestricted dollars that is dispersed to the winning grants.  There is a diversity of a pool of reviewers including diversity in socioeconomic way, religious, geographic, etc. so people come from all walks of life.

I recommend that the Board has a discussion about if or how the grants plan should be changed.

Work Session Topics – Discussion of the Most Recent Development Tracker

Erickson Living will have a County meeting October 6.  Keep a look out for more information for those who would like to attend.

Lakefront core area will be heard again by the Planning Board.  The Planning Board needs to determine if there is a reason to rehear the petition.  Next week, there will be oral arguments.  A minimum of 5% of the acreage of the land must be new common open space which is now called the community commons.  This 5% is written into the zoning law for New Town Zoning.  If there is an attempt to reduce this 5% the community would likely raise the alarms.  Columbia has wonderful open space.  We don’t want to lose that.

There is a question about the connectivity from the west side of Little Patuxent Parkway to the east side of Little Patuxent Parkway where the American City building once existed.  There was discussion about the Lakefront Core.  Also there is a difference of opinion about the lakefront connection and the community commons.  So the County is still dealing with approvals for this.

The East Columbia 55+ Center will be built as a separate building on the same parking lot as the East Columbia library.    It will be large and beautiful when completed.

Work Session Topics – Capital Projects and Open Space Updates

Columbia is always improving.  Where does your money go?  Historic Oakland has new parking pads. The lawn has been redone.  It is now beautiful and has designated parking spots.   The tennis courts nearby have been improved.

Supreme Sports Club looks fantastic.  There are a few minor details to complete. Amherst House had its rest rooms refreshed.  Locker room upgrades were made at the Ice Rink.

A meadow was planted at Kennedy Gardens.  There are pollinators.  It is recommended that the grassy pathway be wide enough so people won’t need to walk through the ticks in the longer grasses.

A beautiful new art installation is located at Slayton House.  Go take a look.  There are now solar panels on Kahler Hall.

Work Session Topics – President/CEO’s Draft Strategic Initiatives for FY2020

This process should have been completed in May.  The year is nearly halfway through but the president goals are supposed to be completed by year end, i.e. April 2020.

One suggestion is that the Board hire someone to guide members and the community through the process of planning and zoning changes.  The County will pursue the changes to zoning especially in Columbia.

It was discussed that the Board needs to be specific regarding Board documentation policies.  The Board also wants to be sure the expectations of the President are clear for him as well as the Board.

Various ideas were discussed about the goals.  The decision as to what the goals should be include the new town zoning suggestion specialist who will educate the Board.  Another potential goal would be to improve relations with the Villages.  Stay tuned until September 26 when the Board determines what will be the approved goals for the next six months.

Happy Fall everyone.  Summer always flies by.  Enjoy the warm days while we still have them.



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