Council member who resigned is replaced Chairman quit to protest election WEST COLUMBIA

May 12, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

The Harper's Choice village board last night elected member Hope Sachwald to the Columbia Council to replace former Council Chairman John M. Hansen, who resigned in protest over a controversial election in another village.

Ms. Sachwald will attend tomorrow night's meeting, during which the council is to vote to officially seat members for the next year.

The 10-member council acts as the board of directors, setting the budget and policy for the Columbia Association, a nonprofit corporation that charges property owners an annual fee to operate recreational facilities and community programs and maintain open space.

Mr. Hansen, Harper's Choice's council representative for the past four years, announced his resignation at Thursday's council meeting, citing his objections on moral grounds to the Long Reach village election, in which two apartment building owners cast a combined 276 votes -- one for each dwelling unit -- for the eventual winner.

Mr. Hansen said he couldn't serve on the council "in good conscience" with the declared Long Reach winner, Gail Bailey.

The Long Reach village election committee has received legal advice from a private law firm on its voting rules and plans to respond to losing candidate Roy T. Lyons' challenge at a public meeting at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Stonehouse.

Mr. Lyons, who won the "popular vote" but lost once the apartment building owners' multiple votes were counted, claims Long Reach residents who voted for him were "disenfranchised."

Ms. Bailey and the Long Reach village board contend the election was conducted properly.

Property owners in Long Reach and seven other Columbia villages are entitled to one vote for every dwelling unit or lot owned. But interpretations vary as to whether apartment building owners are entitled to more than one vote for any individual property.

Ms. Sachwald, a speech-language pathologist at Mount Airy Elementary School in Carroll County, served on the Harper's Choice village board for the past four years, the last year as chairwoman. She was chosen for the council over board member Bill McKinstray, who also was nominated.

In her statement to the village board, Ms. Sachwald stressed her ability to listen and consider a variety of opinions before reacting, "instead of starting with preconceived notions."

The council has been contentious in the past year. The eventual decision to build a $5.2 million golf course and other financial concerns have generated conflicts.

Another village board member, Laura Waters, said she is interested in serving on the council and has attended council meetings in preparation for running for election in 1994.

But she declined to throw her hat in the ring last night.

"Everything that applies to John [Hansen] applies to me," Ms. Waters said.

Ms. Sachwald said she believes Ms. Bailey's victory was "unethical," even if it is determined to be legal. But she added, "It's more a disservice to this community to say, 'If she's sitting there, I won't play.' It's time to deal with people who have different views than you."

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