Do You Really Need to Fertilize?

Soil Sample BagsBy Deborah Wessner, Hickory Ridge Watershed Advisory Committee

In preparation for the fall fertilizing season, the Watershed Resident Advisory Committee for Hickory Ridge suggests you first determine how much and what type of nutrients your lawn needs.  Much like a blood analysis for a person, a soil analysis can indicate what levels of chemicals and minerals are present in a lawn, and what type of nutrients may need to be added. Your lawn may already be rich in nutrients, so why pay for expensive fertilizer if you don’t need to?

A soil analysis can be provided for your lawn, FOR FREE, thanks to a program provided by Columbia Association. Soil sample collection bags are available at the Hickory Ridge Village Center office and can be returned to the same office once you have collected your samples (a ten minute task!)  Soil samples you collect from your lawn will be analyzed by a recognized laboratory in Delaware , and the results provided back to you by mail or email.  If you are unable to collect samples yourself, please contact the Hickory Ridge Village office at 410-730-7327 and we will ask a watershed volunteer to set up an appointment to collect the sample for you.

Remember, fall is the best time to fertilize but Maryland law requires homeowners to complete any fertilizing by November 15, so get your soil sample submitted today!

 

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Ask Covenant Cat: Doggy Doo Blues

Covenant Cat is unable to hide his feelings for his canine sibling.

Covenant Cat is unable to hide his feelings for his canine sibling.

This periodic “advice column” addresses common questions about the Hickory Ridge village covenants and other property maintenance concerns. To keep it interesting, your questions are answered by a local feline who is surprisingly well-versed in covenant issues. This cat may or may not be an overweight orange tabby named Boo Boo that lives with the Village Manager. Send your burning questions to jduvall@hickoryridgevillage.org.

Dear Covenant Cat:

My neighbor has an out-of-control dog that is constantly running loose and doing his business on my lawn. What can the village office do about this?

– Disgusted on Dry Leaf Path

Dear Disgusted:

Like you, I find dogs extremely annoying, especially when their owners don’t keep them on a short leash! Unfurtunately, the village office has no authority over pet behavior. Only Animal Control can help you with this issue.

Howard County law requires that dog owners keep their dogs leashed at all times and immediately pick up all dog waste on someone else’s property. Many dog owners don’t realize the importance of abiding by these laws. Abandoned pet waste produces up to 30% of the bacteria (e.g. E.coli, parvovirus, heartworm, giardiasis) that pollute our streams and rivers. Yuck! Even the furiendliest dogs can seem threatening to those who aren’t dog lovers (like you & me), so pet owners should always keep dogs leashed even if they have a well-behaved pooch. It’s considerate and it’s the law!

The village office can’t investigate complaints about animal behavior. To report a violation of Animal Control laws, you must file an affidavit with Animal Control. For more information about the affidavit process, call 410-313-2780 or visit http://www.howardcountymd.gov/animalcontrol.htm. If you don’t feel comfortable reporting your neighbor, maybe having a conversation with him about how his dog’s behavior impacts your household would help. I know it feels like you’ve got it ruff living next to an annoying dog, but I have one living WITH me! Blech!

Hugs & Kittens,

Covenant Cat

 

Ask Covenant Cat – Fifteen Day Letters

Dear Covenant Cat:

What is a 15-day letter? I frequently see this on Village Board meeting agendas.                                   

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Covenant Cat is ready for beach weather. Are you?

-Confused in Clemens

Dear Confused:

A 15-day letter is the final stage of the village’s covenant enforcement process before a case is forwarded to the Columbia Association (CA) for legal action. Once the Covenant Advisor has sent 3 letters to a homeowner and the covenant violation remains, she then brings the case to the Village Board for their review. The Board then decides whether or not to send the case to the CA  Architectural Resource Committee (ARC), which is made up of Covenant Advisors from all Columbia villages and several CA staff members, including CA’s General Counsel. If the ARC accepts the case, CA can then take legal action against the property owner. This may include placing a flag on the owner’s assessment file (which means the violation must be resolved before the property can be sold), taking the owner to court, or entering onto the property to perform maintenance. Once CA has accepted a covenant case, they can also deny the owner access to CA facilities and programs, and the village can prevent the owner from voting in a village election. Still confused? Call the village office and they can help. And please remind the Village Manager to bring home some catnip, ok?

xoxo— Covenant Cat

Covenant Cat: Compliance Concerns

This periodic “advice column” addresses common questions about the Hickory Ridge village covenants and other property maintenance concerns. To keep it interesting, your questions are answered by a local feline who is surprisingly well-versed in covenant issues. This cat may or may not be an overweight orange tabby named Boo Boo that lives with the Village Manager. Send your burning questions to jduvall@hickoryridgevillage.org.

Dear Covenant Cat:

I just put my house on the market and my real estate agent says I need a Letter of Compliance. But I’m planning to sell my house as is — do I still need one?

                                   -Seller on Satinwood

Boo Boo Shoe (2)

Covenant Cat carefully inspects a dirty shoe while he sleeps.

Dear Seller :

A Letter of Compliance is not required to sell your home, but it is a very valuable tool fur home sellers in Hickory Ridge. This letter, issued by the Covenant Advisor, verifies that your purroperty is in compliance with the Hickory Ridge Covenants.

To obtain a Letter of Compliance, the purroperty owner must complete a brief request form, which is available on the village’s web site or at their office. The Covenant Advisor will visit your purroperty, inspecting the home’s exterior fur any maintenance issues and/or unapurroved exterior alterations. If the home is non-compliant, she will issue a Letter of Non-Compliance describing the violations. Once these have been addressed, she will reinspect the purroperty and issue the Letter of Compliance. This is a free service provided by the village.

Any  covenant violations at your home become the responsibility of the new owner when the purroperty changes hands, so savvy home buyers often request a Letter of Compliance from the seller as part of their purrchase contract. For this reason, many agents tell sellers that it is “required” fur homes sold in Columbia. However, there is no legal requirement to have a Letter of Compliance unless the buyer has placed it in their contract.

If you are selling your home “as is,” you may still want to request a Letter of Compliance. If a Letter of Non-Compliance is issued, you can share it with the buyers so they have a record of the violations they will inherit when they purrchase your home. Good luck!

Hugs and Kittens,

Covenant Cat

Covenant Cat: Expecting Inspections?

Covenant Cat

Covenant Cat inspects the back of his eyelids after responding to today’s inquiry.

This periodic “advice column” addresses common questions about the Hickory Ridge village covenants and other property maintenance concerns. To keep it interesting, your questions are answered by a local feline who is surprisingly well-versed in covenant issues. This cat may or may not be an overweight orange tabby named Boo Boo that lives with the Village Manager. Send your burning questions to jduvall@hickoryridgevillage.org.

Dear Covenant Cat:

I think several houses on my street look run down. When will the village office conduct an annual inspection of homes for covenant violations?

-Impatient on Iron Frame

Dear Impatient:

Unfurtunately, the village office does NOT conduct regular inspections of properties in Hickory Ridge. They simply don’t have the time or resources to do so. The covenant enforcement purrocess in Hickory Ridge is “complaint-driven.” This means that the village relies on residents to report covenant violations to the office. If you report a possible covenant violation, the village office must follow up on it. All complaints are considered anonymouse, and you can infurm the village of violations in writing, by phone, by e-mail, or in purrson at the village office. Once the office receives a complaint, the Covenant Advisor will visit the property in question to verify that a violation exists. If so, the covenant enforcement purrocess begins. Please don’t wait to report a problem; the sooner you let the village office know about violations, the more quickly they can be addressed. Lingering violations make the neighborhood look unsightly.

Ask Covenant Cat: Put a Cap on It!

Boo Boo wuz hereThis periodic “advice column” addresses common questions about the Hickory Ridge village covenants and other property maintenance concerns. To keep it interesting, your questions are answered by a local feline who is surprisingly well-versed in covenant issues. This cat may or may not be an overweight orange tabby named Boo Boo that lives with the Village Manager. Send your burning questions to jduvall@hickoryridgevillage.org.

 

Dear Covenant Cat:

One of the openings to a Howard County water pipe on my property is missing its cap. Who fixes this?

-Mystified on Middlewater

 

Dear Mystified:

The answer to this question depends on which pipe is missing its cap. If you look carefully, you will find more than one on your purroperty. You should have both a water meter cap (about 12” wide, usually metal) and a ball valve cover (4.5-6” wide, usually plastic). If one of these is missing, Howard County will replace it at no charge. However, the pipe could also be your sewer cleanout. If that cap is missing, it’s the homeowner’s responsibility to replace it. Either way, you can call the Howard County Bureau of Utilities for assistance at 410-313-4900. Someone will come out to your home and identify which cap is missing. If it’s the water meter or ball valve cap, they will replace it for you. If it’s the sewer cleanout cap that is missing, the County can replace it for you for a fee (ranging from $20-45 depending on the part(s) required). They will leave you a note explaining how much it will cost fur the County to replace the sewer cleanout cap before they do the work.

Ask Covenant Cat – Cracks in the Sidewalk

Cov Cat and Friend

Ever vigilant, Covenant Cat and his friend scan the sidewalk carefully for any cracks caused by street trees.

This periodic “advice column” addresses common questions about the Hickory Ridge village covenants and other property maintenance concerns. To keep it interesting, your questions are answered by a local feline who is surprisingly well-versed in covenant issues. This cat may or may not be an overweight orange tabby named Boo Boo that lives with the Village Manager. Send your burning questions to jduvall@hickoryridgevillage.org.

Dear Covenant Cat:

Settle a bet for me—my neighbor says I have to maintain the sidewalk in front of my house—I say it’s the County’s job. Who is correct?

                                   -Determined on Dovecote

Dear Determined:

UnFURtunately, this is a complicated issue that can confuse many residents. The responsibility for maintenance of the Howard County right-of-way (the sidewalk and the strip of grass between that and the street) is shared between the homeowner and the County. Homeowners must mow the grass, rake any leaves, and remove snow from the sidewalk. The County is responsible for major sidewalk repairs and County-planted trees in this area (commonly known as “street trees.”).

If street trees are affecting your purrsonal property you can trim them yourself as outlined in “the Massachusetts Rule” for tree trimming (Google it!). If major tree work needs to be done, call the Howard County Bureau of Highways to request it. If your sidewalk or driveway has been damaged due to tree roots, the County will fix it IF a street tree is the cause. If the problem tree is on your property, you are responsible for the repair. As I said before—it’s complicated. If you have a purroblem in the County right-of-way and aren’t sure what to do, call the village office. Village staff can help you determine who is responsible and can advocate on your behalf if necessary. As fur your bet, I guess it’s a draw—or should I say CLAW?

Hugs and Kittens,

Covenant Cat