CA Says Member Amendment Could Have Unintended Consequences

A small group of local residents are working on an amendment that would force Columbia Association to make all residential lien-payers corporate members.


Columbia Association's attorney has responded to a report about an amendment to the Maryland Homeowner's Association Act written by local residents by saying it may raise "legal and financial issues for CA."

The amendment, supported by a local advocacy group, would make all Columbia residential lot owners corporate members of CA, according to an Explore Howard report. Currently, only the board of directors of CA are defined as corporate members, according to CA's charter and bylaws.

Corporate members are able to vote on charter changes, budget decisions and pass resolutions, among other powers listed in the charter.

"This proposal would change the fundamental structure of an organization such as Columbia Association," wrote Sheri Fanaroff, CA's legal counsel, in a statement, "and could create serious and possibly unintended consequences, including raising legal and financial issues for CA. Columbia Association is a corporation that is more than 45 years old and has bond obligations and other contracts that could be impaired by such a fundamental change."

The proposed amendment has not been sponsored by a member of the state legislature.

The residents supporting the change told Explore Howard the amendment would make CA like traditional homeowners associations, in which lien-payers are members, and provide the language to require an annual meeting in which lien-payers would be able to discuss issues such as charter amendments and the annual budget.

David Greisman, a spokesperson for CA, said residents are invited to share their concerns on any subject in front of the board of directors at any one of their regular meetings.

CA board member Tom Coale, who represents Dorsey's Search, wrote in an email that, "This [proposed] legislation appears to be a solution in search of a problem."

"Our Board elections are routinely unopposed with minimal turnout, so I'm not quite sure what access is being prohibited under the current CA structure," wrote Coale.

The amendment was proposed by members of a local advocacy group, the Alliance for a Better Columbia, and the president of the Maryland Homeowner's Association (MHA), Jeanne Ketley, who is also a Columbia resident, according to Explore Howard.

The residents involved in the Alliance have been actively opposing a designation change proposed by CA that would change the organization and the Columbia village associations from homeowners associations to nonprofit community service corporations.

MHA issued a newsletter in September that called CA's proposal to change its designation a "drastic step with potential consequences for all Maryland homeowners." The group stated the legislation would exempt CA from transparency provisions in the HOA Act and may allow other HOAs in the state to withdraw from the law if inconvenienced by something.

CA has disputed this allegation. On Tuesday, Greisman confirmed CA would be using transparency language from the HOA Act in the designation change legislation.

CA's website providing information on the designation change notes the draft legislation says meetings will be open to all individuals living, working or owning property in the community and that people in the community may inspect CA's books and records.

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Editor's Note: Correction - Tom Coale represents Dorsey's Search, not Harper's Choice as orginially written in this article. We regret the error.


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