2023 Columbia Elections

This year’s election in Columbia is very competitive. Here is a summary of all village elections and CA board election. Since the CA president is interim, the next new board will determine who will be the next CA president.

  1. Dorsey Search
    • No election this year.
  2. Haper’s Choice
  3. Hickory Ridge
    • Candidate Forum, In-person
    • This in-person Candidate Forum at The Hawthorn Center will feature candidates for the Hickory Ridge Village Board and the Hickory Ridge Representative to the Columbia Association Board. Residents may submit questions for candidates as they enter the Forum. As many questions will be answered as time will allow. Masks are strongly-recommended for this event.
    • 7:00pm – 9:00pm
    • Hawthorn Center
    • 6175 Sunny Spring, Columbia, MD 21044
  4. Kings Contrivance
  5. Long Reach
  6. Oakland Mills
  7. Owen Brown
  8. River Hill
  9. Town Center
  10. Wilde Lake

What is happening with CA board of director election?

I received an email as following which calls CA to halt hiring their new CEO and campaigns for Columbia Association Board of Director Election. I have never seen such action before. When an organization in Baltimore put the money into CA election, it seems strange. What is the purpose of such campaign?

I saw a few developers’ names in the list and CA owns many lands in Columbia. That is one connection I can think of for the moment.

Here is the letter:

Your name was among those recommended by a Rouse Project Steering Committee Member to receive this early announcement of the organization’s launch. We hope you’ll take a moment to learn more.
The Rouse Project is a budding coalition of leaders, residents and businesses that have come together to pursue a more vibrant and inclusive future for Columbia. Inspired by James Rouse’s vision and the ideals upon which Columbia was founded, we share a common belief that more can and should be done today to:Ensure our community is fully welcoming and inclusive.Protect and enhance amenities to meet the evolving needs of our residents.Promote equally connected and prosperous villages.Cultivate vibrant entertainment, art, culinary and cultural experiences.
Our work begins with the Columbia Association (CA) Board elections on April 24th. As the “keeper of Columbia’s vision,” CA is responsible for leveraging the significant investments we make in annual CPRA assessments to protect and strengthen all of the unique attributes and values that have traditionally made Columbia a highly desirable place to live and work. 
The many years of service by current Board Members is commendable, however, the glaring lack of diversity on the Board – in age, race and income – sits in stark contrast with the diverse communities they were elected to represent.  We believe it is time for new leadership that:Reflects the diversity and experience of the people it serves.Reimagines the priorities and vision of the CA Board to better align with the needs of Columbia residents, businesses and nonprofit organizations.Addresses antiquated systems of governance that fall short of modern best practices.Promotes ongoing community engagement and participation.Addresses social issues like equity and inclusion in a more relevant and public manner.
This is your call to action. The most important thing we can do now is spread the word to our neighbors, friends and colleagues. We’ll keep you updated as each village finalizes its voting and candidate processes. For now, we ask that you:Visit our website and pledge to vote in the CA Board election on April 24th.*Forward this email to 10 friends and encourage them to do the same.Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to receive timely information and help spread the word.If you are a dynamic and passionate CA lien holder interested in serving on the CA Board or know of someone who might be, contact community@therouseproject.com for more information. 
*Some villages will offer early mail-in and electronic voting. Copyright © 2021 The Rouse Project, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you opted in via our website.

Our mailing address is:
The Rouse Project100 S Charles St Ste 1600Baltimore, MD 21201-2725

The list of steering committee members:

  • Victor Broccolino
  • Brad Canfield
  • George Carroll
  • Regina Clay
  • Larry Cohen
  • Vince Cullotta
  • Rev. Paige Getty
  • Dr. C. Vernon Gray
  • Jamison Hibbard
  • Sherman Howell
  • Jessica Mahajan
  • David Nitkin
  • Jean Parker
  • Wendy Slaughter
  • Sabina Taj
  • Frank Turner
  • Ken Ulman

2020 CA Scholarship Application starts

For more than 25 years, Columbia Association (CA) has been recognizing high school seniors for outstanding service to their community. Up to six $2,500 scholarships will be awarded to graduating seniors from local high schools who have shown a history of providing community service to benefit Columbia residents and those in the Columbia area.

For details, eligibility requirements and application, go to ColumbiaAssociation.org/scholarship. Completed applications must be submitted by March 15.

Travel to Sister Cities in Ghana and China

Travel to Sister Cities in Ghana and China

Would you like to visit some of Columbia’s sister cities? These two 2019 trips will allow adults and families to visit Tema, Ghana, and Liyang, China, on tours organized by travel agents who are members of our Tema and Liyang sister city committees. They are reasonably priced and offer the opportunity to travel with people from this area.
10-day trip to Tema, Ghana — August 12-23
15-day trip to Liyang, China — October 16-31
Information sessions will be held from 7-8:30pm at Columbia Association Headquarters, 6310 Hillside Court, on the following dates:
Ghana — Wednesday, May 29
China — Tuesday, June 18

CA board postponed decision to change from HOA to CBA

Columbia Association postpones decision to pursue recognition as a “community benefit association”   MARCH 7, 2019 – A proposal to recognize Columbia Association (CA) under state law as a “community benefit association” is now being targeted for 2020 instead of 2019.   Since its founding in 1965, Columbia Association has been classified under Maryland Corporations Law as a private, non-stock corporation. When the state Homeowners Association Act (HOA Act) passed in 1987, CA was classified as a homeowners association as well.

CA’s Board of Directors had been considering requesting that the Maryland General Assembly recognize Columbia Association as a new kind of entity called a community benefit association, instead of a homeowners association. The original timeline would have brought the request to lawmakers in Annapolis for a vote in the 2020 legislative session.

However, a recent court decision created potentially detrimental financial effects for CA. The proposal to be recognized as a community benefit association could address this issue while maintaining the transparency protections of the HOA Act for anyone who lives or works on or owns property that is part of Columbia Association.

CA changed its timeline given the possibility that the bill could still be considered in the remaining weeks of the 2019 legislative session, pending approval by CA’s Board of Directors. CA released information to the community, and it hosted meetings with the public and with managers and board members from Columbia’s 10 village community associations.

With so little time left in the 2019 legislative session, and given the feedback heard from the community, CA’s Board of Directors will continue their conversation in 2019 regarding recognition as a community benefit association in order to request filing of the bill when lawmakers return to Annapolis in 2020.

Columbia Association is very different than traditional homeowners associations. CA serves an entire community of homeowners, renters, commercial property owners, businesses and the people who work in Columbia, and provides far more services – including facilities, programs and activities – to a greater population than a typical HOA.

When state lawmakers consider changes to the Maryland Homeowners Association Act, that legislation is usually in response to issues at much smaller homeowners associations – and frequently will have unintended negative consequences on Columbia Association. Recognizing Columbia Association as a community benefit association would acknowledge its unique structure and the many and diverse stakeholders it serves, while protecting CA from legislation intended for more traditional HOAs. Becoming a community benefit association would change nothing about the way CA operates.

For more information about this proposal, including a list of frequently asked questions, visit ColumbiaAssociation.org/CBA.

CA considering classification as a “community benefit association”

Please provide your input to the CA board at Board.Members@columbiaassociation.org

Columbia Association’s (CA) Board of Directors is considering requesting that the Maryland General Assembly recognize CA under state law as a “community benefit association.”

The Columbia community is invited to learn more about the proposal at an information session on Tuesday, March 5 from 7-8:30 p.m. at Wilde Lake Interfaith Center, 10431 Twin Rivers Road. There will also be a CA Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, February 28 and a CA Board of Directors work session on Thursday, March 14.

Since its founding in 1965, Columbia Association has been classified under Maryland Corporations Law as a private, non-stock corporation. When the state Homeowners Association Act (HOA Act) passed in 1984, CA was classified as a homeowners association as well. However, Columbia Association is very different than traditional homeowners associations. CA serves an entire community of homeowners, renters, commercial property owners, businesses and the people who work in Columbia, and provides far more services – including facilities, programs and activities – to a greater population than any other HOA.

When state lawmakers consider changes to the Maryland Homeowners Association Act, that legislation is usually in response to issues at much smaller homeowners associations – and typically will have unintended negative consequences on Columbia Association. Recognizing Columbia Association as a community benefit association would acknowledge its unique structure and the many and diverse stakeholders it serves, while protecting CA from legislation intended for more traditional HOAs. Becoming a community benefit association would change nothing about the way CA operates.

That is because this proposal also retains all protections for anyone who lives, works or owns property in Columbia. For example, CA would still be required under its bylaws and state law to provide the openness mandated by the HOA Act, such as the ability to attend and comment at open work sessions and meetings, and the ability to inspect and copy CA’s books and financial records, including salary information.

For more information about this proposal, including a list of frequently asked questions, visit ColumbiaAssociation.org/CBA. To provide input on the proposal, email CBA@ColumbiaAssociation.org.

2016 Election Result for Columbia Association Board of Directors

There was only one contested election in Harper’s Choice: Alan Klein (with 190 votes) won
Bob Fontaine ( with 167 votes). Source: http://harperschoice.org/2016-village-election-results/

In the same post, it seems that CA’s constant guest audience Joel Hurewitz lost in his village election narrowly.

Jeanne Ketley did not run from Town Center again this year. I remember another gentleman is interested in the position. But I googled around and could not get his name and information related to his election.

Updated: Lin Eagan is the new Council Representative from Town Center.


My Article on CA Monthly

My latest article on Columbia Association’s Monthly magazine.



River Hill is the newest of Columbia’s 10 villages, dating back to 1991. It had been around for nearly two decades by the time I moved here in 2010. Like those who were drawn to elsewhere in Columbia, there was much we found attractive about living in River Hill — the trails and pathways, the village center, the great schools and accessibility.

And as with Columbia, there’s much about River Hill that continues to change. While the village is still relatively new, there are many developments that have been completed, are going on now or are coming soon both in and around the area.

River Hill Garden Center has expanded and Clarksville Commons is being built. There’s a proposal for the auto park to expand as well. New retail stores may be added. New homes could soon be constructed. The U.S. Postal Service wants to open a new post office in the area after the previous one closed some five years ago. And the state and county governments recently announced that Route 32 would be widened from north of Clarksville up into Carroll County. All of this taken together is a sign of how the village and general area are growing.

There’s also plenty already here. I’m glad to see that River Hill Village Center is doing well. Our family enjoys going to River Hill Pool, which recently received an honorable mention in Howard Magazine’s annual awards as one of the best pools for kids. We like Columbia Gym, Columbia Association’s fitness club in the village center. That’s usually where we start our walks around the village. Besides CA’s pathways, there’s the system of trails in the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area, a 1,021-acre natural preserve.

River Hill is home as well to a couple of annual events. This will be the fifth year of the River Hill Health Fair, which is hosted by the River Hill Community Association and Coalition Halting Obesity in Children Everywhere, or CHOICE, a nonprofit founded by River Hill High School students. And every 4th of July brings the River Hill Independence Day Parade, which includes the fun and popular Precision Lawn Chair Marching Dads, who are better seen live since no description will do them justice.

This is a great community. I am calling upon our residents to participate in our meetings and share their perspectives to help make this an even better place to be.

Chao Wu

Online version is located at Columbia Association’s website:


Clarksville Post Office Reopen Update

Talking points tonight are:
1: USPS will build a new post office in Clarksville. The project is approved already. There will be 30 days appealing time and move forward for a solution, i.e, look for a location.

2: a place with 5000 square feet, 40 parking lots, full operation , not just a small counter.

3: the old post office location,3000 square feet, is too small.

4: site review committee to make recommendation.

5: luck stone site was discussed.

6: probably the new post office will be operational in one year.

Please share your thoughts with Richard Hancok, Real Estate Specialist for USPS at: United States Postal Service, Facilities Service Office, P.O. Box 27497, Greensboro, NC 27498-1103; orrichard.a.hancock2@usps.gov. Written testimony will be accepted until Tuesday, March 1.

Some thoughts on CA membership

CA is currently thinking of revisiting the membership structure and how we can improve the customer service.

1) CA’s service is essential to our residents’ life such that we should keep our membership affordable. Our annual charge billed by CA covers 60% of CA’s expenses each year.

2) The current promotional membership structure is not desirable. Many residents may find the membership fee attractable when singing in. After two-year or three-year promotional period ends, the huge spike on the membership fee just make them unhappy. If we look at the first argument, we should just set a yearly rate, probably increase the rate a little it annually.

3) Two key questions are:
a) What is the expected percentage that CA residents will become CA members? We want an affordable rate for our residents. Right now, we have 20.62% participation rate, i.e., out of 97,000 residents, 20,000 join CA membership annually. It has been close 20% for several years. If we consider families/households rather than individuals, the ratio is much higher. It is around 38.4%.

b) For non-CA residents, what is the proper rate? Right now, non-resident's membership price is 25% over that of the resident. We also want our neighbors to use our facility.

Symphony Woods Revisited

I got another reader’s response and would like to share two pictures related to Symphony Woods. This will be a place for record in the future for Symphony Woods when we could not get a full picture of this project or lose track of this. Previous post from Andy Stack is a good reference. This is another reference for the two designs for this vision. The original one was abandoned and a new design (current one) was proposed.

Revised Paumier Plan (Original Plan)

Revised Paumier Plan

Inner Arbor Plan (Current One)

inner arbor plan

Major CA facility list (more than 3 or 5 million dollars)

More than 5 million dollars
Building Name Built Year Insured Value
Athletic Club 1971 6,833,400
The Columbia Gym 1999 8,426,900
Supreme Sports Club 1986 13,085,500

More than 3 million dollars
Building Name Built Year Insured Value
Athletic Club 1971 6,833,400
The Columbia Gym 1999 8,426,900
Fairway Hills Golf Club Historic 3,114,900
Hobbit’s Glen Golf Club 2015 4,090,000
Ice Rink 1970 4,078,300
Kahler Hall 1970 3,123,100
Public Works Garage 1993 3,075,100
Slayton House 1967 3,421,900
Stonehouse and 1975 3,812,900
Supreme Sports Club 1986 13,085,500
Swim Center 1970 4,544,300

Major CA facility list (more than 1 million dollars)

Total insured values of CA assets are $102,406,000 (more than 100 million dollars). I am listing all facilities with insured values more than 1 million dollars.

More than 1 million dollars
Building Name Built Year Insured Value
Amherst House 1988 1,384,700
Athletic Club 1971 6,833,400
Claret Hall 2000 1,267,000
The Columbia Gym 1999 8,426,900
Dasher Green Pool 1974 1,457,100
Fairway Hills Golf Club Historic 3,114,900
Hawthorn Pool 1987 1,392,400
Hobbit’s Glen Golf Club 2015 4,090,000
Hobbits Glen Maintenance Buildings 1995 1,001,700
Horse Center 1979 1,070,700
Ice Rink 1970 4,078,300
Kahler Hall 1970 3,123,100
Linden Hall 1993 1,220,300
Locust Park Neighborhood Center 1972 1,137,600
The Meeting Room 1996 1,074,000
Oakland Manor 1811 2,267,500
The Other Barn 1969 2,768,300
Owen Brown Community Center 1974 2,076,400
Phelps Luck Neighborhood Center 1973 1,491,600
Public Works Garage 1993 3,075,100
Rose Price House 1,730,500
Slayton House 1967 3,421,900
Stevens Forest Neighborhood Center 1970 1,368,000
Stonehouse and 1975 3,812,900
Supreme Sports Club 1986 13,085,500
Swansfield Neighborhood Center 1969 1,176,700
Swim Center 1970 4,544,300

Heat with Dannon Garth Pond

In the CA meetings I attended so far, there were not so many people. However, a little pond called “Dannon Garth Pond” invited more than 30 people. The residents’ speak-out took more than one hour.

I believe one key element leading to this huge crowd is the lack of effective communication between staff and residents.  Residents are busy and difficult to reach. Staff are busy. Contractors working on the field sometimes did lousy job to communicate with the residents affected. Then residents were not satisfied and came out speaking loudly.

Background on CA and Inner Arbor Trust

Note: This article was written by Andy Stack, Chairperson of CA’s Planning and Strategy Committee. It is a very good introduction to the Inner Arbor Trust and CA’s involvement.

I really appreciate his effort sharing this article with us.

Background on CA Board & Inner Arbor

By Andy Stack

September 15, 2015

Background on CA Board & Inner Arbor

The CA Board has changed quite a bit over the years and Gregg and I are the only ones who have been with the process since the very beginning until now. Here is my unique perspective on the whole situation from the beginning as I was involved in all parts of it.

Several years ago, after the County approved the zoning changes to guide the development of Downtown Columbia, CA started planning for the development of Symphony Woods. The CA Board was concerned that Symphony Woods was (and still is) little used and needed some environmental restoration. There were no amenities to draw people to Symphony Woods. The CA Board wanted to change that and develop Symphony Woods under the guidance provided by the new Downtown Columbia redevelopment process. This was the first time CA was using the new guidance and process. (In fact, CA was the first entity to do so.) The first part of the process requires the submission of a Final Development Plan (FDP). The second part involves submission of a Site Development Plan (SDP). Note that Symphony Woods together with Merriweather Post Pavilion was designated by the County as the Merriweather-Symphony Woods Neighborhood in Downtown Columbia.

In early 2012, CA submitted an FDP (FDP-DC-MSW-1) for the northern portion of Symphony Woods (the land between Little Patuxent Parkway and Merriweather Post Pavilion) along with additional documents required by the Downtown Columbia redevelopment process. The FDP showed that CA would construct several features in the Woods, including an amphitheater, play activity area, fountain, gathering area, pathways, parking, a shared use pavilion/café, a plaza, art, a woodland garden area and boardwalk. The FDP did not finalize the locations of any of these features and clearly stated this fact:

FDP Page 2, Note 7: “Final placement of the pathways, parking, buildings, and other structures, as well as the final widths of pathways, will be determined at the Site Development Plan.”
FDP Page 3, Note 8: “Location of proposed facilities are approximate. Final alignment and width of pathways, parking, and final placement of buildings and other structures will be determined at the Site Development Plan. Improvements shown on this FDP may occur over several Site Development Plans.”

The FDP that CA submitted was in essence a concept plan. It was reviewed by the County Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ), the Design Advisory Panel, and finally the Planning Board. Although the Planning Board did approve the FDP, it was clear that the County was disappointed that CA had not presented a plan for the entire neighborhood reflecting a shared vision and design for Merriweather-Symphony Woods as a unique cultural and community amenity. In further discussions, the County indicated that CA was not meeting the thrust of the Downtown Columbia redevelopment guidelines, and it became clear that we were not going to succeed if we did not address the County’s concerns.

The Planning Board stated (echoing the concerns of both DPZ and the Design Advisory Panel):

CA needed to work with the owner of Merriweather Post Pavilion, Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC), to develop a plan for the entire Pavilion area and Symphony Woods;
CA needed to consider the vegetation and topography in developing features and pathways;
CA needed to preserve as many trees as possible;
Pathways needed to meander (the park should be a natural place, a woods, and not a formal landscaped park);
The SDP(s) associated with this FDP should maximize potential interaction with Merriweather Post Pavilion (shared use facilities, cross access between sites, increased opportunities for year-round use);
There should be continuing coordination between CA and HHC to create a shared vision and design for Merriweather-Symphony Woods as a unique cultural and community amenity; and
CA should incorporate art within the park.

At that point the CA Board began considering how to revise the plan to meet the County’s concerns, and we voted (publicly) to pause further work until we could address those concerns. We really weren’t quite sure how to proceed. At the same time, we began to realize that developing Symphony Woods was going to be an expensive, complex, time consuming process. Given all the other things that CA was doing and that needed to be addressed, the CA Board wasn’t sure that developing Symphony Woods was the best use of CA resources. We did not want to get into the development business.

Enter Michael McCall. Our former CA President learned that Mr. McCall was working with HHC and had developed a concept plan related to Symphony Woods. At the CA Board’s invitation, Mr. McCall presented the plan, which included Symphony Woods, Merriweather Post Pavilion, and the surrounding Downtown Columbia neighborhoods. What was clear, from the very beginning, was that the McCall plan showed a vision for the entire neighborhood that was in keeping with the Downtown Columbia redevelopment guidelines and incorporated HHC’s plans. These were key features that CA’s FDP lacked. It is important to note that the McCall plan was strictly Mr. McCall’s, not CA’s, and therefore only he could share it. At that point, the CA Board wasn’t even sure that this was the direction in which we wanted to head.

Merriweather Post Pavilion is the heart of Symphony Woods. One of its unique features is its setting in the center of the Woods. The Downtown Columbia Plan clearly understood the importance of the Woods to The Pavilion, envisioning them as an integrated whole, and created a special neighborhood containing just Symphony Woods and Merriweather Post Pavilion. That Neighborhood is intended to be a vibrant cultural district, comprising a natural wooded landscape for the arts and compatible commercial uses that people will want to visit over and over again.

In October 2012, the CA Board held a public work session to discuss the way forward with Symphony Woods. Although the session was part of a regularly scheduled CA Board meeting and was advertised, no residents attended. The Board discussed how to address development, funding, and ways to meet the County’s concerns. The Board did not want CA to have to pay for all the improvements to Symphony Woods and did not want to devote staff time and CA resources to developing Symphony Woods over a 20-year period. It seemed too much to place on staff and would detract from other pressing CA needs.

The CA Board finally settled on a way forward. It authorized the CA President to work with Mr. McCall to revise our plan for Symphony Woods and create a separate entity to oversee development and funding. The result was what we call Inner Arbor.

One of the challenges in revising our original plan was determining what additional features could be incorporated to meet the goal of allowing year-round use and make Merriweather Post Pavilion and Symphony Woods an integrated, unique cultural and community amenity. Merriweather Post Pavilion’s strength lies in hosting concerts. What would complement that while allowing for year-round use? One idea for Columbia that Jim Rouse had but was not able to implement was the creation of a setting like Tivoli Gardens, which  has theaters/areas for performance. Drawing on that concept, it was thought that an Arts Village focused on performance would complement Merriweather Post Pavilion and enable year-round activities. Additional possibilities were a great children’s play area and active art. Additional festivals, like Wine-in-the Woods, which could make use of Merriweather Post Pavilion, would be another way for Symphony Woods to provide a unique amenity for the community (although, of course, provisions would have to be made to minimize the damage that festivals could cause to the woods).

What the CA Board liked about the McCall plan, which came to be called the Inner Arbor plan, was that it was a revision of our initial plan – it kept all the amenities from the FDP (which residents liked), simply relocating some of them, added new amenities, reduced the number of trees to be cut, addressed the entire Symphony Woods, not just the northern part, seemed to meet all the County’s concerns, and fit into HHC’s plans for Merriweather Post Pavilion. As a result, the CA Board approved (by an 8-2 vote) the Inner Arbor Plan at a Board meeting on February 14, 2013.

The Inner Arbor plan is a concept plan for the entire Symphony Woods and integrates Merriweather Post Pavilion into the plan. It envisions Symphony Woods as a vibrant place that will attract people year-round. Both active and passive uses will exist.

All of the features in CA’s FDP still exist:
North portion: amphitheater, play activity area, pathways, shared use pavilion/café, boardwalk, art;
East portion: plaza, fountain, gathering area; pathways
South portion: garden, art, pathways
Merriweather Post Pavilion: gathering area, art
An Arts Village was added in the eastern portion of the park; the buildings are located on already disturbed land and existing parking lot. This minimizes utility work and environmental disturbance. The Arts Village provides opportunities for year-round use and additional cultural and community activities.
The fountain was moved to the Arts Village area to minimize utility work and maintenance concerns.
Art was added in different parts of the park.
A sculpture garden was placed in the southern portion of the park.
Pathways meander among the trees and circle the park.
Entrances to Merriweather Post Pavilion (east, west, south) align with plans for Merriweather Post Pavilion [Note: Merriweather Post Pavilion will not have a north entrance].
Additional trees will be planted to enhance the woods.
Care will be taken during design to allow festivals to occur (and also use Merriweather Post Pavilion) while minimizing damage to the environment.

Our belief that the Inner Arbor plan would meet County concerns was proved true. County officials were pleased with the plan – both County Executives (past and present) stated their support, as did the County Council and DPZ officials. The real validation came when DPZ and the Planning Board agreed that the Inner Arbor plan was just a revision of the approved FDP (remember that the location of the amenities in the FDP was not stated) and we could proceed to the SDP phase of the process. This is significant because otherwise we would have had to start all over again with the submission of a new FDP. The County also evidenced its support of the plan by providing millions of dollars in funding to Inner Arbor.

In April 2013, the CA Board approved the creation of the Inner Arbor Trust to oversee the development of Symphony Woods and to raise funds for this development. This removed the burden from CA staff, created an organization solely focused on Symphony Woods, and allowed for funding from non-CA sources. The CA Board thereafter approved an easement agreement with Inner Arbor Trust granting them certain development rights in Symphony Woods. In July 2014, in accordance with the easement agreement, the CA Board endorsed the Inner Arbor plans for the northern portion of Symphony Woods. In November 2014, the Planning Board approved the first SDP for Symphony Woods.

The SDP meet all the requirements imposed by the Planning Board in approving the FDP. The SDP:
Shows shared use facilities, cross access between sites, and concepts in the park that will increase opportunities for year-round use; it will help make both Merriweather Post Pavilion and Symphony Woods an integrated, unique cultural and community amenity;
Preserves the environment to the best extent possible;
Keeps the park as a wooded, natural area – no formal paths, etc.;
Has pathways meander among the trees;
Locates facilities/features in the woods so as to take advantage of the topography/environment and minimize environmental disturbance;
Adds additional trees;
Has entrances to Merriweather Post Pavilion that align with plans for the Pavilion;
Adds art; and
Incorporates active and passive uses (in particular, allows festivals to occur while minimizing damage to the environment).

You may be interested in some background regarding the creation of Inner Arbor Trust. The CA Board had been discussing joint ventures with other organizations (both public and private) as a way to share costs. However, joint ventures proved to be difficult to create and it was not clear that there were any organizations interested in joint ventures with CA. Now CA did know how to create non-profit organizations. In fact the CA Board had recently authorized the creation of a new nonprofit organization to handle Columbia’s 50th Birthday celebration. The CA Board intended that this new organization qualify as a 501(c)(3) organization so that it could accept contributions that would qualify as tax-deductible charitable donations and therefore make fundraising easier.

At the CA President’s recommendation and after careful deliberation, the CA Board authorized the CA President to form a new nonprofit organization to be called Inner Arbor Trust. The CA Board clearly understood that this was to be an independent organization, not a subsidiary of CA. It was how we created the 50th Birthday corporation. The CA Board was also aware that if we wanted Inner Arbor Trust to be able to get donations from businesses, individuals and other organizations, it would have to be a 501(c)(3) organization for tax purposes. The same process occurred with the 50th Birthday organization.

In order to give Inner Arbor Trust the flexibility needed, minimal controls were imposed. The CA Board understood that Inner Arbor Trust was (and was meant to be) independent of CA. The CA Board was also aware that an easement would be required and this was a better vehicle for providing any needed controls.

The Inner Arbor Trust was incorporated with a five member board of directors: the CA President, 2 CA Board members, and 2 non-CA persons. Inner Arbor Trust was to be the developer for Symphony Woods and was to raise money to build, operate, and maintain Symphony Woods and any amenities constructed.

In order to achieve 501(c)(3) status, Inner Arbor Trust needed to show that it was not controlled by CA. Their board decided to add two non-Columbia persons to the Board. This would give CA 3 spots on the Inner Arbor Trust Board, but not control of a seven member board. This was done with the support of all the CA people on the Inner Arbor Trust Board. This change helped Inner Arbor Trust receive 501(c)(3) status very quickly. A similar thing was done for the 50th Birthday organization. Non-CA people were added to its board to ensure CA did not have control. The 50th Birthday organization also achieved 501(c)(3) status.

Once Inner Arbor Trust was firmly established, CA and the Inner Arbor Trust began negotiations on an easement. After careful deliberations and review (and some changes made by the CA Board), the CA Board did approve the easement with Inner Arbor Trust. CA did add some controls in the easement. Because Inner Arbor Trust had to follow the County Downtown Columbia redevelopment process, the CA Board knew that our residents would have ample opportunity to express their opinions during the process. There are multiple steps in the process where community input can (and is) gathered and considered and these occur over months. The CA Board did not believe additional meetings, beyond those required by the process, were needed. We wanted to make sure the people of Columbia could be heard, but did not want to overburden the process. Sometimes, too many meetings lead to fatigue and are counterproductive.

In the easement agreement (which is public and filed in the land records of Howard County) approved by the CA Board, Paragraph 5 (a) (iii) states that CA will cooperate with Inner Arbor Trust in the execution and delivery of applications, filings, requests and other documents related to required governmental approvals and generally cooperate as reasonably requested by Inner Arbor Trust in connection with development activities. The Board is bound by the terms of this contract just like it is bound to any other contract authorized/signed by CA. This obligates the CA Board to support Inner Arbor Trust in its work and development activities. The easement is a legally binding contract and we need to act accordingly. We do not want Board conduct to cause a breach of contract. You may want to read the easement agreement as it spells out duties and responsibilities of both parties (CA and Inner Arbor Trust).

In dealing with Symphony Woods, the CA Board had difficult decisions to make. But after careful deliberations, the CA board did make the decisions. In all our deliberations, the CA Board was careful to consider what would be best for the people of Columbia, both those currently living here and those who would live here in the future as Symphony Woods was developed over 20 years.

Andy Stack