Wilde Lake grills council hopefuls

3 village candidates appear at a forum

April 17, 2001|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

About 60 residents from Columbia's oldest and most outspoken village quizzed Columbia Council candidates last night on government structure and the town's relationship with the company that created it.

Three of the four Wilde Lake candidates running for council seats in Saturday's election attended the candidates forum at Slayton House in the village center.

They were: Randy Clay, 29; Joshua Feldmesser, 25; and Mary Kay Sigaty, 51.

A fourth candidate, Hank Eigles, 64, was out of the country.

Candidates and questioners often referred to the aches and pains felt in Columbia's original village as the 34-year-old community begins to feel its age.

Sigaty, a jewelry designer and education advocate, noted that the forum was taking place next door to the Columbia Association Swim Center, which is about 30 years old.

A consultant found that the indoor facility needs $3.75 million in improvements, but still will probably have to be replaced in 10 to 15 years.

"CA is in trouble only if we fail to think clearly about where we are today, and if we fail to think sensibly about our future," she said.

Clay said he had the insight to solve Columbia's problems as a lifelong resident of Wilde Lake and a graduate student in urban studies at the University of Maryland who also works as a Columbia Association laborer.

"These people have become part of the problem," Clay said, referring to his opponents.

Feldmesser, another Wilde Lake native, is training director for an environmental group called Environmental Citizenship. He is chairman of the village board.

"CA does not know what to do now that Columbia has been built," Feldmesser said.

Eigles sent a written statement, which was read to the crowd. The statement called for changes in the governance structure to provide for more stability and continuity.

Larry Schoen of Wilde Lake posed a question that he said "almost hurts" him to ask as a former Rouse Co. engineer and neighbor of the late James W. Rouse, the developer who created Columbia.

"Is the Rouse Co. a group we should work with as an interested partner, or do our interests diverge at this point?" Schoen asked.

All three candidates said they see a need to work with Rouse, which owns most of the community's village shopping centers, including the one in Wilde Lake. But they also said they would be skeptical of proposals that might benefit the company more than Columbia.

All four candidates said they would like to change the structure of the homeowners association, which provides recreational amenities and other services to the town of 87,000.

Feldmesser proposed adding an 11th council member, who would be elected at-large and serve as council chair for a term of three or four years.

The odd-numbered board would help eliminate tie votes, he said.

Sigaty opposed that plan, saying nothing was wrong with a proposal dying in a tie vote if it did not muster broad council support. She proposed lengthening council terms to three years. They are now one to two years, depending on the village.

Clay said he had not made up his mind about how best to reform the structure, but said he was looking forward to the results of a governance structure committee.

In his written statement, Eigles suggested that council members no longer serve as the board of directors for the Columbia Association.

The council would appoint board members to terms of at least two years to handle financial matters for the association.

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