Committee asks for help to better enforce covenants

CA's President McCarty doesn't want extra staff

January 12, 2000|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

The Columbia Association needs a legal assistant to help prosecute cases if it is serious about penalizing covenant violators, a Columbia Council committee agreed this week.

The Covenant and Design Committee will recommend that the association hire someone to help the organization's lone lawyer bring delinquent homeowners into compliance with the community's strict architectural guidelines, which govern everything from door color to lawn decorations.

"That's first and foremost, because [covenant advisers] felt as though there are cases which have been referred to the ARC [Architectural Resource Committee] which have never been fully prosecuted," said Tom Forno, chairman of the committee and the Columbia Council representative for Harper's Choice.

But association President Deborah O. McCarty has resisted such an expenditure for the coming fiscal year, which begins May 1.

At a budget briefing before the village boards last week, she said the association may continue to use outside legal help on an as-needed basis to avoid the high cost of creating permanent staff positions.

It is unclear how much it would cost the Columbia Association to hire a legal assistant.

"This could get to be sticky," said Forno. "I don't know how this gets resolved inside the [association] staff."

The Covenant and Design Committee is expected to recommend funding for 20 more hours of covenant adviser staff time each week in three of the city's older villages. If the council approves the money, Harper's Choice, Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake would participate in a three-year pilot program centered on more aggressive inspections.

The covenant committee also will recommend that the association push for legislation that would require a "letter of compliance" stating that a home for sale is free of violations, and "flags" on county land records to alert potential buyers of existing problems. The committee has yet to determine how much money it will suggest that the association spend on the effort.

The covenant committee will not recommend including funds for a Columbia Association "property maintenance officer" at this time, Forno said.

The Columbia Council will hear testimony on the association's proposed $48.9 million budget at 7: 30 p.m. Jan. 26 at Claret Hall in River Hill. The final version is expected to be approved at the end of February.

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