People Spoke Out (The Villager 2015-7)

People Spoke Out

by Chao Wu. The article is published in our Villager.

I am now serving as the vice chair of the Columbia Association’s (CA) Planning and Strategy Committee and also sitting on the Audit Committee. We are going to begin work on a two-year budget for CA soon. The budget will steer CA’s short term and long term projects and visions to guarantee that Columbia will continue to be the top place to live in America. Here are some recent developments in our communities:

At the Village Level

During the May 11 River Hill Board of Directors meeting, around 80 residents had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with four Howard County Council members. The residents focused their comments on the MD 108 Design Guidelines project. Many people spoke out on several key issues:

  • A need to set up a traffic light between Linden Linthicum Lane and Clarksville Pike. It is really difficult to make a right/left turn during peak hours.
  • An objection to the River Hill Garden Center expanding development and a proposal to align the Sheppard Lane traffic light (for example, perpendicularly) to provide a better view for drivers and lead to less congestion, and better safety around the school zone.
  • An objection to the Donaldson funeral home. The funeral home does not fit well with many surrounding residential homes, churches, and schools.
  • An objection to the continuous development at the intersection of 108 and Ten Oaks Lane. When the residents bought homes nearby, they were not aware that the area had been zoned for commercial uses approximately 10 years beforehand.
  • A problem at the Whistling Winds Walk Corner. In the morning, high school kids going to River Hill High School close their car doors too loudly when they are dropped off by their parents.

You can voice your concerns and send email to the following recipients:

Howard County Dept. of Zoning: and

County Executive:

County Council:

Board of Education: and

Your input will be greatly appreciated and hopefully our residents’ opinions will help the officials make the proper decision on these key issues. If you do not do it now, it will be even more difficult to have changes made to accommodate residents’ reasonable requests once construction has occurred. It is never too late to email or call our elected officials.

At the CA level

The CA Board of Directors and senior staff spent one and a half days at a retreat to discuss “trust” among Board members. It was a great opportunity to learn more about each other and hopefully this retreat will improve CA’s operations and management.

The CA Board has elected two new representatives to the Inner Arbor Trust Board: Dick Boulton and Gregg Schwind. The related Symphony Woods project previously created a contentious debate among CA Board members. We continue to guide the development of this project and hopefully we will soon have a wonderful central park in the downtown area to benefit Columbia’s residents.

CA is launching a membership and service satisfaction study. We are hoping to have a reasonable membership fee and quality services to improve CA’s reputation. In the survey presented by Club Intel, CA’s reputation is at the edge of falling to an unsatisfactory level (Zone of Pain). At the end of the year, more results will be presented to the Board which will take actions to improve CA’s image.

If you happen to read the CA Board meeting minutes, you may notice that CA headquarters will be relocated to a new location (away from downtown area) to reduce operating costs. One of my first important votes was to approve the moving budget, which was three times of the amount that was initially proposed. I voted yes, since I believed the staff was not prepared to provide a good estimate for such a big move in such a short time. However, I will keep a close eye on any future spending.

CA is really promoting an active and healthy life style through many activities. Trails, lakes and gyms are amenities all can enjoy this summer. CA’s outdoor swimming pools are open. Hobbits’ Glen Golf Course reopened May 31.

I have been busy channeling residents’ concerns to the proper divisions within CA. A muddy sidewalk close to the Columbia Gym, dying trees in the open space, and debris in Lake Kittamaqundi are all issues raised by residents that I have conveyed to the CA management team. Hopefully solutions to these types of issues will be resolved soon and CA will work with other stakeholders when needed. It is these kinds of small improvements that make our quality of life better.

Many debates around our community have been centered on the conflict between commercial development and the community’s desires. As we have more people move into our county and the county becomes more diverse than ever, what is our vision for the long term? I would like a balanced approach which cherishes the wonderful residential areas and welcomes robust development with a clear plan to preserve the high quality life of the community.

What is your vision for CA? Would you mind sharing it with me and others? Speak up.


Chao Wu, Ph.D.

River Hill Representative to Columbia Council

Columbia Association Board of Directors

Email:             Tel: 240-481-9637             Website:

The views presented herein represent the personal opinion of Dr. Chao Wu. They not necessarily represent those of the River Hill Board of Directors nor the Columbia Association’s Board.