Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday signed legislation that will enable two Town Center developments to be annexed into Columbia, allowing those residents to participate in the village's elections this month.
The law paves the way for two women living in those developments - the Lakeside at Town Center condominiums and the Evergreens, a senior rental complex - to run for the village board and Columbia Council, creating a contested election for the council.
Gail Broida, who lives at the Lakeside condos, will be able to run for the Columbia Council, and Linda Wengel, who lives at the Evergreens, can seek a spot on the Town Center Village Board.
"I came home, and I had six calls from people to tell me that [the legislation passed]," Wengel said. "I'm very pleased."
Broida said she believes the law will encourage more citizen participation.
"We pay substantially to support the Columbia Association," she said. "And I think it's only right and fair that we get to vote and stand for election in the village."
Broida and Wengel will be in contested elections, with Broida facing council incumbent Jud Malone. Wengel will run against Burt Knauft, Stephen Meskin and Hugh Tousey for two open seats on the village board.
By today, Town Center Village Manager Patricia B. Laidig said she expects to wrap up all the necessary paperwork to get the developments annexed into Columbia.
Laidig said she plans to receive the annexation paperwork from the Evergreens and Lakeside and will then get it signed by the village board chair and Columbia Association President Maggie J. Brown. Then, she will get the annexations recorded by the county.
"I'm hoping if I can get all the stars to align, I can get this done [today]," Laidig said.
Del. Elizabeth Bobo submitted the emergency state legislation that would allow the roughly 200 residents at the Evergreens and Lakeside - who pay an annual charge to the Columbia Association - to participate in the election.
"Although the Columbia Association is not a government in the strict sense of the word, there are assessments of a significant size," said Bobo, a Howard County Democrat. "And for people to have to pay the assessment and not be able to vote is very inequitable."
The legislation was necessary because the previous method of annexing land by the Federal Housing Administration has been eliminated.
To allow more time for the approval of the legislation, Town Center had delayed its elections by a week to April 29. A candidates forum is scheduled for Tuesday evening.
The other Columbia villages are scheduled to hold elections April 22.
Bobo said it is important for all Town Center residents to be allowed to participate in the elections now that the area is facing significant redevelopment.
"These residents are in the village that is having the biggest issue, and that is, how are we going to deal with this redevelopment of downtown Columbia," Bobo said.