Columbia Association board seeks watershed plan

Members approve spending $250,000 to hire consultant to develop strategy

December 30, 2007|By June Arney | June Arney,Sun reporter

The Columbia Association board has agreed to spend $250,000 for a consultant to develop a watershed management plan, contingent on approval of the scope of work to be done.

That plan, designed to protect Columbia's waterways from erosion and pollution, includes the creation of an advisory group made up of volunteers from each of Columbia's 10 villages to guide the process.

Board members discussed Thursday night whether to hold off on approval of the consultant until more specifics could be outlined but decided to set the money aside now.

Initially, Cynthia Coyle, who represents Harper's Choice, had opposed approval.

"I want to know what the scope of work is before I agree to a quarter of a million dollars," she said. "I'm very much objecting to this -- to the way this is being done."

But Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, who represents Owen Brown, and others voiced concern about delaying approval.

"It's really critical that we move quickly to get this committee together that are the experts on this," Atkinson-Stewart said. "I do believe that we have enough to go forward with this."

Henry F. Dagenais, representing Long Reach, said he did not think the board was being too hasty in allocating the money.

"It doesn't say we're going to run out and spend $250,000 without knowing what the work is," he said. "I don't see the cart before the horse here."

In a memorandum to the board, Dagenais, as chairman of the external relations committee, wrote: "CA must take a leadership role on the watershed. Columbia is behind on this issue and needs to move wisely and expeditiously; and the use of a watershed management consulting firm to help develop the plan is the first step."

Chick Rhodehamel, vice president of open-space management, said the Columbia Association plans to do much of its own homeowner education about ways to prevent erosion and pollution.

"We're not rookies at this," he said. "I've been in the business of natural resource management for 41 years."

Environmental analysts have said that developers and homeowners will need to preserve vegetation on their property and create landscapes that absorb storm water and reduce the amount of fertilizer entering the watershed for preservation to be successful.

june.arney@baltsun.com

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