Poor Accountability Plagues Rouse 'Fiefdom'

COUNTY FORUM/Opinions by and for county readers

April 26, 1992|By Neil Noble For | Neil Noble For,The Howard County Sun

There are three problems that concern me pertaining to Columbia.

One is that the covenants are not being enforced adequately.

The second is that the people, in general, don't seem to care about our covenants.

The third is that the Rouse Co. appears to be playing its own version of the Tammany Hall game.

The covenants thatmost of us bought into are well intentioned and well thought out. I believe we would be well advised to pay them greater heed. When one buys a residence within the Columbia Association jurisdiction, one buys both the property and the covenants. We may no longer make unilateral decisions regarding our property.

We all bought into a partnership, and it's up to all of us to abide by the rules of said partnership.

As a Resident Architectural Committee (RAC) member, I see thatour covenants are not being enforced equally, equitably or stringently. Everyone started out with the same set of guidelines, but 25 years of differing interpretations and advice from unofficial sources have led us away from where we should be.

We need only one committee to interpret our one set of rules. It can be made up of two members from each village. Each member-pair of a new Columbia Covenant Committee (CCC) should have an advisory group from its own community.

Theadvisory group can be the existing RAC. The CCC would replace all ofthe Architectural Committees. Only those applications that fail to get unanimous approval from the advisory groups would go before the panel for a decision. The only method of appeal to a decision by the CCC would be through the state's court system.

This new panel would need to have a policing capability. The panel members would be elected for a set term length and a limited number of terms; I'd suggest three terms of two years each. The CCC panel would also need to maximize its visibility so as to minimize unofficial advice on home projects. Maybe a paid position would be in order.

There is also a large segment of our population that chooses to ignore our covenants.

Oneway of combating this is to have all homebuyers attend a one-time class explaining Columbia history, government and an overview of its covenants.

The Realtors that work in this area should give their clients a copy of the guidelines, a letter of certification of compliance from the CCC that the house in question doesn't violate any of the covenants, and set up a date and time for the homebuyers to attend this class. Even those who move within Columbia should fall under this requirement. If Realtors fail to do any one of these things, their entire office should be suspended from listing and/or selling in Columbia for a preset time. This, too, would fall under the policing capability of the CCC.

It is my hope and desire that this lack of concern can be turned around so as to keep Columbia from looking like some of our neighboring towns. I also hope that we do not fail in this endeavor. Otherwise, why bother having rules to live by when relatively few of us bother to live by them? Why bother having committees to interpet and carry out these rules? And why should concerned members of our community bother taking an interest in our community?

The lastproblem concerns the Rouse Co. itself. Its Teflon coating seems to protect it from rules and regulations.

Does the company allow our various citizens groups to exist just so we will be duped into believing that we actually have a say in what goes on in our own town? To whom is Rouse accountable?

How many of its executives live within the CA jurisdiction? Why do they have their own puppet heading the CA staff? Why is he appointed, seemingly for life, while everyone else must be elected?

Why are there perks like free package plans for allthe CA staff and the Columbia Council members that are ultimately paid for by the rest of us?

The passage of the rollback on our lien rates meant eliminating thousand dollar luncheons for Rouse Co. managers. Why send CA officials to visit our "sister" cities in France andSpain? No wonder they wanted the lien rates rolled back as little aspossible! I wonder what other expensive perks lurk within the Rouse Co. budget? All of these things helped me to form the basis of my Tammany Hall gang theory.

I've raised a lot of questions because I feel the Rouse Co. and the Columbia Association are accountable to me as well as everyone else within their fiefdom!

(Neil Noble lives onBabylon Crest in Columbia.)

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