In Harper's Choice, two candidates sound off

Morrison, Schneider take different views on debt

April 17, 2002|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Harper's Choice residents heard from the two candidates wanting to represent them on the Columbia Council last night - one who seeks to reduce the planned community's debt by scaling back some growth and activities, and another who says the community is working fairly well and needs only to see positive momentum continued.

Wolfger Schneider, an electrical engineer who has lived in Columbia for 33 years, is the challenger in this race.

He supports the idea of "one person, one vote" - a radical concept for homeowners associations, many of which link voting rights to property ownership. In eight of Columbia's 10 villages, the rule is one vote per household.

Schneider, 61, also supports longer council terms.

In a submitted campaign statement, Schneider said the association "is still deeply in debt and looking to expand its domain in hopes of garnering more revenue. This growth mentality has been one source of resident dissatisfaction."

At the Harper's Choice candidates' forum last night at Kahler Hall, Schneider again said the community's significant debt load is worrisome. He said the community should not be looking to expand until its finances are in better shape.

"We need to keep our borders and manage our community as it exists and the best way we can," he said. "We also should reconsider the high per capita support for some CA activities."

Incumbent Lanny J. Morrison, 57, has been council chairman for the past two years and served on the council for three years in the mid-1980s. A self-employed health care consultant who has lived in Columbia for 29 years, he said he has no objection to longer council terms or one person, one vote, but questioned the feasibility because of the legal hurdles.

"I have no problem with longer council terms, as long as the villages agree to it," he said last night. " ... I also have no problem with one person, one vote. I'm not so sure you'd have a homeowners association anymore if you do that. ... "

Morrison said the Columbia Association is in good shape. The debt, though significant, has been reduced from $94 million to $78 million, he said, and twice as many Columbians now believe the community is "on the right track," as did to two years ago, he said, noting a recent association survey.

"We have forged once-again collegial relationships between CA and Columbia's villages; I want to help build on them," Morrison wrote in his campaign statement. "We have a financially sound CA; I want to assure it does even better."

Morrison said that despite the need to get out of debt, he still supports many recreational facilities that are losing money.

"It's part of what I call the quality of life in this community," he said. "The question you have to ask is, `What kind of quality do you want?'"

Voting will be Saturday.

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