Measure seeks to enable voting

Bobo's emergency bill would annex developments into Columbia so residents have say in village elections


Del. Elizabeth Bobo is attempting to stop what she calls taxation without representation in some pockets of Columbia.

After discovering that some Town Center residents live in new developments that have not been annexed into Columbia - thereby making the residents ineligible to vote in village elections, despite paying an annual charge to the Columbia Association - the Howard County Democrat is introducing emergency state legislation that would consolidate those parcels into Columbia.

Because it is emergency legislation, the bill would become law as soon as Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. signs it, which Bobo said she hopes will be within two weeks. Village elections are scheduled for April 22, when residents in Columbia's 10 villages will select representatives for their respective village boards as well as the Columbia Council in villages where the current representatives' terms have expired.

"It's just important that they vote; otherwise it's akin to taxation without representation," Bobo said.

The bill, assigned to the House Environmental Matters Committee on Friday, would allow parcels of land in Columbia that are not part of a village to be consolidated into the village in which they sit, affording those residents the same voting rights as those held by other Columbians.

Columbia Association board Chairman Tom O'Connor said the association is "totally in support" of Bobo's legislation, and association President Maggie J. Brown will be working with the delegate to address legal terminology in the bill that might need to be changed.

But while the legislation, if approved, would likely allow residents in non-annexed areas to vote in next month's elections, it remains unclear if those residents would be eligible to run for office.

In Town Center, two new developments are not annexed into the village - the Lakeside at Town Center condominiums and the Evergreens, a senior rental complex.

Gail Broida, who lives at the Lakeside condos, has filed to run for the Columbia Council, and Linda Wengel, who lives at the Evergreens, has filed to run for the village board.

Because the village's deadline for filing to run in the election was Friday, Patricia B. Laidig, Town Center village manager, said she does not know whether Broida and Wengel will be able to run in the election. She said the village's attorney is looking into that matter.

"Hopefully, at the very least, people will be able to vote," Laidig said. "Now it's all up to the lawyers."

Broida and her husband, Joel, learned in a Feb. 15 letter from the Town Center Community Association that their development had not been annexed into the village, and therefore they could not vote or run for office in the coming election.

In the letter, Laidig explained that since 1983, land has been annexed into the village by the Federal Housing Administration approval process, which has since been eliminated. This approval could also be reached by two-thirds of eligible voters, but Laidig pointed out that is "nearly impossible to achieve."

Joel Broida said he and his wife are waiting to see whether her name will be on the ballot in April.

"It's kind of peculiar," he said. "It's OK to collect a lien from us, but we're not eligible [to vote]. It doesn't make sense."

Wengel said if she cannot run for office in April, she will try again next year. But she is pleased that she might get the chance to vote next month.

"For those few of us in Columbia who really care about Columbia, it is an affront not to be able to participate," she said.

Sun reporter Tyrone Richardson contributed to this article.

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