The association, which has a $32 million operating budget and $5.8 million capital spending plan, levies an annual charge on Columbia property owners to oversee recreational facilities, community services and parkland. The 10-member council sets CA's policies and budget.
Among the issues that could be subject to an advisory vote could include, for example, proposals for large capital projects or changes in recreational membership rates.
But the nonbinding referendums can't be called until the council settles certain procedural details, such as how to validate petition signatures, structure a ballot question's wording and conduct the vote. The board has discussed several drafts of those procedures for three months without reaching consensus.
Seven of 10 council members voted nearly nine months ago to adopt the nonbinding referendum provision, with three abstentions. But now some appear to view it almost as a personal threat.
For example, Mr. Rethman said, newspaper reports often lend credibility to those portraying the council and CA in a negative light, creating misperceptions among residents about "nonsense issues." The council faces a challenge informing residents about the full context of issues and that "the sky is not falling," he said.
Ms. Rose countered that such fears are exaggerated. "There are defenses to this," she said, noting a requirement to collect 2,500 petition signatures to bring an issue to a communitywide vote and the "advisory" nature of the vote.
"I can't see any great danger to the community," she said. "There are advantages. Debate could shed light on things important to CA. A vote is a good way to find out if people are satisfied."