Columbia Council eyes covenant enforcement

Member suggests adding $140,000 to budget for more aggressive system

January 21, 2000|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

A Columbia Council member proposed adding $140,000 to next fiscal year's budget last night to strengthen enforcement of covenants in the town.

Tom Forno of Harper's Choice, chairman of the council's Covenant and Design Committee, asked that the council include $70,000 for a second staff attorney and $35,000 for three part-time covenant advisers in the Columbia Association budget.

Forno asked for an additional $35,000 to pursue state legislation that would crack down on homeowners with covenant violations.

The funding request -- a preview to a series of policy recommendations the covenant committee is expected to make to the council next week -- was met by some members with strong support, and with equal amounts of skepticism by others.

"This is a major, major issue for Columbia -- the enforcement of covenants -- because of our standing stock [of houses], which is getting old," Earl Jones, the council representative from Oakland Mills, said at the two-hour budget work session. "Our community cannot be ambivalent about this situation any longer."

Pearl Atkinson-Stewart of Owen Brown, vice chairwoman of the council, compared a more aggressive inspection system to an intrusive kind of "policing," and called it "premature" to appropriate the money.

Now, covenant advisers only inspect properties that have been the subject of a complaint.

Hickory Ridge representative Jean S. Friedberg Jr. questioned the need for an associate general counsel, who would help the association's lone attorney, Shelby A. Tucker King, prosecute covenant cases and handle what King has called an unmanageable workload.

Friedberg said council members should look at the expenditure -- which has been resisted by association President Deborah O. McCarty -- as a long-term cost. Over the next 10 years, he said, the full-time position would cost the association more than $700,000.

The association's proposed $48.9 million spending package for the fiscal year that begins May 1 was presented to the council last month. The 10-member elected panel, which serves concurrently as the association's board of directors, has the final say over expenditures.

Also last night:

Chick Rhodehamel, director of the association's open space management division, asked the council for an additional $240,000 for the renovation of Pushcart Pond in Oakland Mills.

Rob Goldman, the association's vice president for sport and fitness, requested $4,500 for a canvas "shelter" to be installed over two practice tees at Fairway Hills golf course, so golfers can play in any weather.

The Columbia Council will hold a public hearing on the budget at 7: 30 p.m. Wednesday at Claret Hall in River Hill. The final version is expected to be approved at the end of next month.

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