Association accused of laxity in handling covenant violations

May 13, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

Kings Contrivance village board members and residents criticized the Columbia Association last night for its handling of a long-standing property covenant violation and questioned its commitment to enforcing the architectural standards that distinguish Columbia.

"Is the association a paper tiger or will something be done?" asked Brent Dorsey, a neighbor of a residence on Half Dollar Court that was cited for covenant violations last June, which have yet to be remedied.

Concern extends beyond just one property, the residents told the Columbia Council, which serves as the nonprofit association's board of directors.

Village architectural committees will have difficulty convincing property owners to apply for permission for alterations, such as birdhouses, if glaring violations like collapsing porches go unabated, said Kings Contrivance village board member Lewis Lorton.

"Houses are being let go, and the association and council are not doing anything in a timely manner," he said. "Residents all pay their dues, and they expect you to live up to what they pay for."

The council recently has discussed how to improve covenant enforcement, which is handled initially by Columbia's 10 villages.

Violations that can't be resolved at that level are sent to an association committee for review and possible legal action.

Councilman Mike Rethman of Hickory Ridge village said he strongly agreed with the residents, noting that the 26-year-old community is showing signs of aging.

"This is happening all over this town. We need to get out in front of it. [Columbia Association] has the deep pockets to do it," Mr. Rethman said.

"There are folks who are hurt when covenants aren't enforced. We might have to hurt some people who are in violation. We need some teeth in covenant enforcement in this town or 20 years from now, it's going to be a slum," Mr. Rethman said.

Mr. Dorsey said the Half Dollar Court residence, cited for an overgrown lawn, a collapsing deck and debris, is an eyesore that has affected his property's value and brought rodents to the Huntington neighborhood.

"I've endured this for over a year. The association has let me down," he said. "I moved to Columbia because of the way property is maintained by covenants. I pay $850 a year to the association, and I'm disappointed in the way this has been handled."

After repeated covenant violation notices, the association filed a lawsuit in Howard County Circuit Court Oct. 1 against Luther Fleming and Annette M. Branch-Fleming, former owners of the Half Dollar Court property.

A recent court order will allow the association to mow the property next week, but it won't be able to address all the violations at the abandoned house, which was sold at foreclosure Wednesday, Association President Padraic Kennedy said.

Another neighbor, Charlie Butterfield, said he is "outraged" by the situation and said the current enforcement process involving a series of administrative steps and waiting periods "sounds really wimpy."

"Let's . . . go in and do what we said we were going to do when we signed the covenants," he said. "When guys don't play by the rules, let's play hardball with them."

Several council members told the residents that they had not heard about the Half Dollar Court case.

"I suggest the council exert the powers they're supposed to have to make [Columbia Association] do the things they're paid to do," Mr. Lorton said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.