5 Reasons why FALL Family Bingo Night is Awesome

Friday, September 25 is another fabulous Family Bingo night at The Hawthorn Center. This is an awesome thing to do with your kids. Here are 5 good reasons to come play with us this Fall.

1. It’s super-cheap. Bingo cards are 5 for $1.oo. Drinks are $.75 each. Bingo daubers are less than $2. Snacks are FREE. Yes, free. All the cheese curls, pretzels, and popcorn your kids can eat for FREE. It’s so cheap, you can bring your kids’ friends and look like a hero to their parents.

2. Your kids (and you) will love the prizes. We have NEW prizes, plus the stuffed animals, notepads, and pencils that kids love. And when kids win, they get to go CHOOSE their prize from the winner’s table. How cool is that? Not like those school fun fairs where they just hand you a plastic top or Chinese finger trap. Here, you have the power to choose your reward. We have some nifty prizes for adults too. And there’s always CASH for winners to boot.

3. It gets you out of watching another LAME family movie with the kids. Seriously. Every family movie EVER was watched in my house over the summer because the basement was the coldest room in the house. If you have started watching those painful Disney sequels on Netflix (Hunchback of Notre Dame II, anyone?) you need to STEP AWAY FROM THE TV. Get out of the house and do something as a family that doesn’t involve a screen.

4. It teaches your kids important skills. Okay, this is a stretch —  but they do have to listen carefully or they’ll miss the number being called. Plus, since the odds are against them they’ll probably learn about being a good loser and how to handle disappointment. You could also give them a budget for the night and help them decide how to spend it. It’s almost like school, right? Right? But with cookies and soda.

5. BINGO is FUN for adults! Admit it. You secretly love it. The thrill of ALMOST winning every single game combined with the fun of stamping your bingo card with a dauber is good, old-fashioned, corny fun. Besides, you can’t attend frat parties anymore and you can’t afford a babysitter, so come on down.

Friday, September 25 at The Hawthorn Center. No reservations required — just show up! We start playing at 7:30 pm.

We will have a dauber with your name on it. 🙂

bingo

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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

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

Ask Covenant Cat – Approval for Tree Removal?

Cov Cat Haircut

Clearly no one sought MY approval before giving me this awful haircut.

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 is having some trees removed. How can I find out if they got permission from the Resident Architectural Committee (RAC) to remove these?

                                   -Curious on Cricket Pass

 

Dear Curious:

I am always curious myself when people remove trees. They’re so fun to climb—why would anyone want to get rid of one? If you see trees being cut down, you can call the village office with your neighbor’s street address to see if they got RAC approval. (You can do this with any exterior change, actually.) That being said, there are several cases in which trees can be removed without prior RAC approval. Homeowners do not need to apply before removing a tree if:

  1. The tree is dead.
  2. The tree is less than 6 inches in diameter (at two feet above ground level).
  3. There is only one tree being removed, regardless of size, and no other trees have been removed from the property within the last calendar year.
  4. Up to 2 trees may be removed, regardless of size, when they are within 15 feet of the house.

If it doesn’t meet one of these exceptions, an exterior alteration application is required. If you want to remove trees but aren’t sure whether or not you need to apply first, call the village office — they can help! You want to be pawsitively sure about this before you start up your chainsaw, because the village can require you to plant replacement trees if you remove healthy trees without approval.

Ask Covenant Cat – Political Signs

Covenant Cat ponders life's mysteries before tackling your tough questions.

Covenant Cat ponders life’s mysteries before tackling your tough questions.

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:

The primary election is over. What can be done about the abundance of political signs that are still visible all over Hickory Ridge?

-Disgruntled on Dark Fire

Dear Disgruntled:

I agree that political signs can be unsightly, especially the very large ones. They are littering our streets and highways, and I am not amewsed. However, the Howard County sign code allows those who won in the primaries to keep their signs up through the general election in November. Those who lost on June 24 must take their signs down*. The other thing that really rubs my fur the wrong way is signs that are placed illegally. Political signs should not be in the county right-of-way or on any Howard County or Columbia Association (CA) property. If you see a sign that you suspect is placed illegally, you can report it online at howardcountymd.gov (follow the link under the tab “I Want To”) or by calling 410-313-1823**.

*Although the sign code technically states that election losers have to take down their signs within one week following the election, Covenant Cat recently learned that this is not really enforceable. The ACLU has won several legal cases nationwide that have established that a jurisdiction can’t require someone to remove a political sign because it would violate that person’s right to free speech. Recently, this was an issue in Hancock, Maryland.

** This is a corrected phone number. The wrong number was printed in the July 10 LOG. Oops! (Hey, I’m only a cat.)

Better Late then Never – Our Letter to the CA Board of Directors

At their June 16 meeting, the Hickory Ridge Village Board decided to send a letter to the Columbia Association (CA) Board of Directors regarding the CA Board meeting held on June 12, 2014. Below is the text of the letter:

Dear President Matthews and Members of the Columbia Association Board of Directors:

The Hickory Ridge Village Board was recently made aware of the events that took place at the Columbia Association Board of Directors meeting on June 12, 2014. It is our understanding that a new item was added to the meeting agenda by a 5-4 vote at the beginning of this meeting, without any advance public notice. Later, a vote was taken on this item without any public notice that a motion would be on the table.We believe that this action clearly violates the Columbia Association Board of Directors’ Special Rules of Order. With regard to Agendas, this document states (emphasis is ours),

3.1 Preparation of Agenda: The Board Operations Committee shall be responsible for preparing the Board agenda with background materials for each regular meeting. This agenda shall be submitted to all members of the Board, the Village Boards and the press seven (7) days in advance of any regular meeting, unless circumstances shall prevent such distribution. Generally, items will not be placed on the Board agenda until they have first been reviewed by a Board committee and then referred with a recommendation to the Board Operations Committee for placement on the Board agenda.

3.2 Agenda Items within 7 days of a meeting: If any matter arises within seven (7) days immediately prior to a regular meeting which, in the opinion of the Chairperson or President, requires action by the Board before the next scheduled regular meeting, that item shall be included on an Agenda Additions Sheet and distributed at the beginning of the meeting. Such addenda shall be announced at the beginning of the meeting.

3.3 Emergency Items: An emergency item may be added to the agenda during a regular meeting or executive session only if it has the two-thirds approval of all the members of the Board present at such meeting.

The actions taken by the CA Board of Directors on June 12 did not follow these Rules. This was not an “emergency item,” and a two-thirds approval vote was not achieved. In fact, these actions could also be considered violations of the CA Code of Ethics. And while the actions taken on June 12 are not a direct violation of the Maryland HOA Act, they certainly do not follow the spirit of the law.

We believe that the actions taken at the June 12 meeting reflect poorly on the CA Board for several reasons. First, the members of the CA Board who took these actions were not acting in the spirit of transparency that CA strives to achieve. Because this particular agenda item is so important to Columbia’s lienpayers, the actions make it appear as though the CA Board was attempting to make a major change without gathering public input.  Finally, the CA Board is setting a bad example for all the condominium and homeowners association boards in Columbia by either not being aware of its own meeting rules or intentionally disregarding them when it found it convenient to do so. We ask that Columbia Association take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that this does not happen again.”

A PDF version of the letter is viewable here: Letter to CA Board June 2014

Because this issue is so important to the Board, we are sharing this letter with the public so that all our residents are aware of what the newly-seated CA Board of Directors is operating. We urge you to stay informed on the CA Board’s activities — this elected body oversees how your assessment dollars are spent. Attend a CA Board meeting if you can. Speak up if you have something to say!

Find out when the CA Board meets and what’s on the agenda here: http://www.columbiaassociation.com/board/meetings

Get involved and make a difference!

Covenant Cat Answers Your Questions – RIGHT MEOW!

Covenant Cat

Covenant Cat does some yoga stretches before tackling tough covenant questions.

Last month, we launched a new advice column that will occasionally appear in The Log newsletter. No, it’s not relationship or parenting advice — it’s something far more exciting! We will be answering all your burning questions about village covenants! Let’s face it — the covenants are complicated. Thankfully, we know 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. Here are the latest columns for your reading pleasure.

June 12, 2014 

Dear Covenant Cat:

What can I do about my neighbor’s overgrown tree? It’s growing over the fence into my yard, and my neighbor won’t trim the branches.

-Frustrated on Frostwork

Dear Frustrated:

I hear about issues like these regularly. Luckily, there is an easy solution to this problem! If your neighbor is unwilling to trim the tree branches that hang over your yard, it is purrfectly acceptable for you to do it yourself. Maryland follows the “Massachusetts Self-Help Rule,” which is based on the outcome of a Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts case [Michalson v. Nutting, 275 Mass. 232, 175 N.E. 490 (1931)]. This court ruling states that a property owner can cut off branches which are intruding over his property as long as he doesn’t kill the tree. You do not need to apply to the Resident Architectural Committee before you trim trees, so you can get to work right meow! Good luck!

May 29, 2014

Dear Covenant Cat:

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

-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   Do you have a question for Covenant Cat? Please submit your request below and he will be happy to answer you — after his nap.