The Columbia Association board of directors is being advised against changing its rules to require that all land easements be approved by the board -- a change being pushed by one board member in response to association President Maggie J. Brown's approval of easements for a residential and retail tower on the lakefront in Town Center.
However, the association's Performance and Oversight Committee plans to recommend that the board adopt rules allowing the association president the right to grant easements only for utilities.
Utility easements are "run-of-the-mill ... and we see about four, five or six of those each month. ... Those should just be done deals," said Miles Coffman, chairman of the committee and board representative for Hickory Ridge. "We need [a policy] that requires the more complicated easements to come to the board for approval."
In 2003, the board agreed to transfer its power of approving land easements to the association president.
That decision came under review this fall when Phil Marcus, board member representing Kings Contrivance, questioned Brown's approval of a handful of easements between 2004 and this year for construction of The Plaza Residences at Columbia Town Center, the planned 23-story lakeside residential and retail tower in Columbia.
Marcus, an attorney, questioned whether the association violated its charter when it transferred its authority to Brown, but a legal opinion said there was no violation.
Marcus, who sponsored the motion that would require board approval for all easements, questioned Brown at a meeting Thursday about granting the easements for construction of the building.
Brown said the easements, on a 6,000-square-foot parcel of the association's open space, were for water and sewer access and to allow developers to have the entrance of the building to face Little Patuxent Parkway.
"I didn't do anything [different] than what I normally do with easements," Brown said.
Marcus also questioned how the community would benefit by the association granting the lakefront tower easements, a question answered by Rafia P. Siddiqui, the association's vice president for administrative services. She said the project would generate additional assessment revenue for the association.
Marcus said Siddiqui's answer reinforces his desire to return easement approval to the board.
"When you consider that CA has broader responsibility than collecting taxes -- and none of those were part of the calculation -- it would have been better if the board had vetted this," Marcus said. "That is the reason why those are the kinds of easements [that need] to go past the board."