OPINION: CA Proposal Could Make Association Less Transparent

Removing the Columbia Association from the Maryland Homeowners Association Act may result in less transparency.

The need for more open and transparent governance is just as important an issue at the Columbia Association (CA) as it is at local, state, and federal government agencies.  However, there is a recent proposal, drafted by CA staff, that would go in the opposite direction, making CA less accountable to the people of Columbia.  

The proposal is in the form of a potential State bill, which would redefine CA and Columbia’s village associations.  They would no longer be considered “homeowners associations,” under State law.  They would be called “nonprofit community service corporations,” a new category that would have weaker provisions.

The proposal would remove some State protections of Columbia residents' rights under the Maryland Homeowners Association Act.  It would take away protection of some rights to be notified of and participate in CA’s meetings.  It would also take away protection of some rights to get information about CA’s proposed budgets, how CA operates, and what CA spends for individual salaries and bonuses. 

Because CA is a homeowners association that requires property owners in Columbia to make an annual tax-like payment to CA, people rightfully expect CA to be open and transparent about how CA operates and spends residents’ money.  In my opinion, the recent proposal is misguided and would be very harmful to Columbia residents’ rights.  I will oppose, and hope that my colleagues on the CA Board of Directors and Howard County’s State Delegates and Senators will also oppose, any such efforts to undo any rights of residents in Columbia.

Alex Hekimian
Columbia Council Representative for Oakland Mills

b.santos March 26, 2012 at 05:43 PM
I find the terminology and language in this opinion confusing. In the 3rd paragraph, the author states that the proposed legislation would "take away protection of some rights..." The opening sentence in the 4th paragraph extends the argument to "rightfully expect..." The author then goes on to state that the proposed changes are "harmful to Columbia residents rights..." and "undo any rights..." So what are we talking about, protections of rights, rightful expectations, or rights?
justsayin March 27, 2012 at 01:58 PM
I have read the proposed legislation, and it includes the open meeting and access to documents requirements that are included in the Maryland HOA Act. I disagree with this writer's assessment of the bill.
J N Ketley March 27, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Yes, the proposed legislation allows access to some documents, but it still would exclude Columbia residents from some current and future pending homeowner rights. Here's a summary of rights that are now guaranteed by Maryland HOA law with the citation attached. Believe it or not, these rights were put in law because HOAs were refusing to allow homeowners these rights. CA should be expanding this list, not withdrawing from it. See below: http://www.marylandhomeownersassociation.info/Site/Maryland_Homeowner_Rights.html As you can see, ondominium unit owners have more rights under the Maryland Condominium Act and bills are being submitted to give HOA homeowners the same rights as condominium unit owners.
b.santos March 27, 2012 at 03:31 PM
J Ketley - Thank you for link, but help me close the loop here. Of the rights you cite, which is being undone? Which rights do the proposed legislation harm? At this point, what I have seen is much effect, but little cause.
Alex Hekimian March 27, 2012 at 06:53 PM
As the author of the opinion letter to Patch, I can provide readers an explanation of the changes that the proposed legislation would make. The detailed explanation is too lengthy to fit in this reply, but I am willing to email it to b. santos and others who are interested.


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