Council approves loan program for property repairs Plan would help residents comply with covenants

November 22, 1995|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Some Columbia residents ordered to fix up their property to comply with architectural covenants will be able to seek loans of up to $3,000 under a pilot program the Columbia Council unanimously approved last night.

The program is designed to boost or maintain property values by helping residents with annual family incomes of $49,400 or less comply with restrictions imposed by neighborhood architectural committees.

Fifteen to 20 households would be served in the first year. Residents with the same problems but higher income would not be eligible for loans.

Many details -- such as when the program will begin, the length of the loans and the interest rates -- have yet to be worked out.

Columbia Bank and the First National Bank of Maryland have agreed to provide the loans. The Columbia Association has agreed to guarantee them.

Residents seeking loans should first contact Maggie Brown, the Columbia Association's director of community services, for an interview. Ms. Brown then would set up an appointment at one of the banks.

The bank would run a credit check and send the resident back to Ms. Brown, who would decide whether the association should guarantee the loan.

Last night's vote was approved without debate.

Earlier, Councilman Gary Glisan of Oakland Mills had referred to the program as a "carrot and not so much stick" approach to enforcing architectural covenants.

"It's aimed at [property main tenance], where we feel the biggest problem has been," Mr. Glisan said at a hearing on the proposal last month.

He chairs a council committee on covenants -- agreements homeowners make with the Columbia Association at the time they buy their homes.

Also last night, council members were told that the association could profit from construction of a $6 million recreation facility in the new village of River Hill.

The association's two other major facilities -- the Supreme Sports Club in Owen Brown and the Columbia Athletic Club in Wilde Lake -- are close to capacity, said Rob Goldman, the association's vice president in charge of recreation.

In the past five years, use of the Supreme Sports Club has nearly tripled -- more than half a million people came to the facility in the last fiscal year -- and use of the Columbia Athletic Club has risen by nearly 30 percent.

That kind of growth is filling the parking lots and causing delays of up to five minutes for people waiting to use equipment, Mr. Goldman said. More than half the people using both clubs had experienced such delays, he said.

A 55,000-square-foot facility in River Hill would be within a five- to 10-minute drive for most Columbia residents, Mr. Goldman said.

It also would put the association in a "defensive position" in regard to two commercial recreational organizations considering Columbia as a base, he added. He identified the groups as the Wellbridge Co. and Gold's Gym.

A River Hill facility also would turn a profit of $257,000 by 2000 and $4.1 million altogether in a 10-year period from 1996 to 2006, Mr. Goldman said.

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