FY 2015 Annual Report

Our fiscal year ended April 30, 2015. During that year, our village’s Representative to the Columbia Board of Directors was Gregg Schwind. The members of our Village Board of Directors were:

  • Linda Hitzelberger, Chair
  • Jerry Lioi, Vice-Chair
  • Miles Coffman
  • Tom Louden
  • Michelle Wood

Village Board Projects

The Village Board worked on the following issues this past fiscal year:

  • Hickory Ridge Village Center Park development
  • Survey about CA parcel at Hickory Ridge Village Center
  • Signage at the Hickory Ridge Village Center
  • Mailing absentee ballots to every village household
  • Changes to Architectural Guidelines & RAC/AC By-Laws
  • Discussion of New Town Zoning with Howard County Council
  • Street parking around Atholton High School
  • Howard Community College Master Plan
  • Formation of the Hickory Ridge Watershed Advisory Committee
  • Planning the Open Streets Howard County event
  • Various building projects in and around Hickory Ridge
  • Joint meeting of Hickory Ridge’s smaller homeowners’ associations


Covenant Work

This year the Resident Architectural Committee reviewed 234 Exterior Alteration Applications, approving 189 through the regular process, and 38 via our Fast Track process. The RAC denied 1 application. The following volunteers served on the RAC this past fiscal year:

  • Dianne Earley, Chair
  • Linda Loesch, Vice-Chair
  • Debbie Cline
  • Barbara Condron
  • Kathy Mardaga
  • Skye Anderson
  • Bob Opatovsky

Appeals are heard by the Architectural Committee, which is composed of three Village Board members and two RAC members. No appeals were heard in FY2015. Tom Louden chaired the AC, joined by Michelle Wood, Miles Coffman, Dianne Earley and Linda Loesch.

During this period, the covenant advisor handled 218 new covenant violation cases and resolved 215 covenant cases. In FY2015, 2 cases were sent to Columbia Association for legal action, and 11 cases carried over into FY2016. The Association received 105 requests for a Letter of Compliance, and issued 87 Letters of Compliance.

Special Events

Our Special Events Coordinator, Joan Lancos, planned the following events in FY2015:

  • 4 Family Bingo Nights
  • 50+ Lunches (3)
  • Wine Tasting
  • Family Pool Party
  • Village Yard Sale
  • Landscaping Classes
  • Volunteer Party
  • Family Holiday Event
  • Ice Cream Social
  • Holiday Craft Show
  • Searching for Spring
  • Village Election
  • Ladies Night Out
  • School’s Out Lunches
  • Open Space Crew Lunch
  • Flea Market
  • Prepare to Care Event
  • Lifetime Transitions
  • 2 Shredding/E-cycle Events

Services

In FY2015, the village offered the following services:

  • Notary Public
  • Postage stamps
  • Laminating
  • Reader’s Exchange Ads
  • Block Party Grants
  • Mowers list
  • Faxing & Copy Services
  • Maps & schedules
  • Cul-de-sac Grants
  • Snow Shovelers List
  • Columbia Cards
  • Scoop the Poop signs
  • Storm water assessments
  • Soil sample dropoff site

FY15 Budget

The village association brought in $359,470 income. Expenses were $360,743. The village reserve account (savings) totals $44,948. $256,798 of our income is our share of the CA special assessment that all Columbia residents pay yearly. Here is a breakdown of the budget:

Income
CA Assessment Share $256,798
Rentals $  88,192
Interest $       123
Special Events $    4,631
Fees $    1,583
Miscellaneous $    8,142
Total $359,470
Expenses:
Staff Salaries & Benefits $213,403
Payroll Taxes $  14,357
Contract Labor $       241
Janitorial Expenses $  28,280
Fees $  14,339
Operating Expenses $  17,064
Taxes/Insurance $    5,445
Advertising $    4,812
Newsletter $  31,721
Contributions $       450
Special Events $    8,836
Utilities $  11,929
Maintenance $    5,190
Furniture & Fixtures $       164
Depreciation $    4,512
Total $360,743
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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

 

Hickory Ridge WAC Guest Post: The Importance of Healthy Streams

By Patrice Donnelly, Hickory Ridge Watershed Advisory Committee

Healthy streams are a necessary component of a thriving, stream ecosystem.  Flora and fauna habitat are integral to our healthy streams, promote biodiversity and provide natural beauty surrounding our homes and businesses. Outdoor recreational opportunities and effective planning to improve our environment and the community at large will often require monitoring, restoring and maintaining healthy streams.

Healthy streams also have a positive impact on the larger water bodies to which they are tributaries. Water bodies, including streams, rivers, lakes, bays and oceans, exist within watersheds. Watersheds are the land areas that surround water bodies and provide drainage into and out of the water body. They are defined in scope by the water body to which they refer (i.e., the Patuxent River Watershed, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed) and therefore may encompass one or more political entities (e.g., village, city, county, state, regional).

Rain water, storm water run-off and other human-engineered sources of water and fluids (including chemicals) infiltrate the land mass and eventually impact the water bodies. In Hickory Ridge the immediate water bodies are our streams and the Middle Patuxent and Little Patuxent Rivers. Debris can also find its way into the streams and rivers, causing negative impacts.

In some communities infiltration can have a direct impact on ground water sourced for drinking through private well systems (CDC, 2014). In Columbia, our public drinking water is supplied through several reservoirs that are part of the Big Gunpowder Falls, Patapsco, Patuxent and Potomac River Watersheds (The Nature Conservancy, 2015).

We want rain water and storm water infiltration as a part of good storm water management practices to Slow the Flow (Carson, 2010). Infiltration helps to reduce erosion. Yet, we also need to be well-informed and careful about chemical products that go into the watershed, such as lawn fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides, household toxins, automobile fluids, paint and more, referred to as nonpoint source pollution (EPA, 2014).  Whatever goes into our streams has the potential to impact the entire Chesapeake Bay Watershed, of which our local watersheds are a part. Two of our larger primary concerns with stream health, therefore, are the immediate health of the local environment and also the State of the Bay (CBF, 2014).

Maintaining and restoring healthy streams involves a web of biological and geo-political interactions and a high degree of complexity.

What can we do together this Spring to promote healthy streams?

Three helpful practices that are easy for our village residents to do, take little time (in the big picture) and can be done with whatever level of cost and effort you are comfortable, are listed below:

March 21, 2015. CA Clean-Up Day. Photos by Patrice Donnelly.

March 21, 2015. CA Clean-Up Day. Photos by Patrice Donnelly.

  1. Help keep the streams free of debris.

A few weeks ago, many brave and enthusiastic village volunteers and friends, joined together as part of the Columbia Association (CA) Clean-up Day (March 21, 2015). We walked through the snow on a cloudy, cold morning, to pick up litter along a segment of our CA pathways that follows one of our beautiful streams. We found soccer balls, golf balls, baseballs, an iPod, a biking helmet, parts of a car – we are definitely a community that is on the go!  We also picked up the small litter, particularly the colorful pieces that are attractive to birds, turtles and other wild life. Small litter is a BIG problem worldwide. Tiny, glittery, colorful pieces of plastic that we consider miniscule often float on the water. They are perfect sized morsels for unsuspecting wildlife who are attracted to the unusual colors. If they ingest enough, they die —  in part because their bodies aren’t built to digest plastics and in part due to accumulated harmful heavy metals that may attach to the plastics (Alberts, 2014).

After we bagged up quite a bit of debris – both the interesting and the mundane – CA employees hauled it away for us.  At the end of the event, village employees handed out snacks and more water, while retrieving our clean-up gear. It was a team effort.

Over the spring and summer – and anytime during the year – if you meet volunteers in neon jackets with our village or CA name-tags, picking up trash, feel free to stop and ask how you can help out and join us again next year for the CA Clean-Up Day.

March 21, 2015. CA Clean-Up Day. Photos by Patrice Donnelly.

March 21, 2015. CA Clean-Up Day. Photos by Patrice Donnelly.

  1. Pull invasive species and plant native plants.

This weekend, we will all be joining together again to pull invasive species from our walkways and streams and plant native plants. In general, if a plant is non-native AND invasive, we will consult with botanists and other experts to determine if the plant should be removed, because in most cases a non-native, invasive plant will not be conducive to protecting our ecosystems and promoting biodiversity. Furthermore, it might fail to reduce erosion and slow the flow of storm water.

Note that another related part of the Slow the Flow campaign includes dedicated tree plantings, as they are a cost effective way to enhance storm-water management (CA Communications, 2012). Tree planting, particularly native tree planting, also protects ecosystems and promotes biodiversity.

On Sunday April 19th, between 12 pm and 3 pm, along the same CA pathway and stream that we cleaned in March, we will conduct a pull and plant with CA Watershed Manager, John McCoy and Howard County Invasive Species Expert, David Rogner. Dave is also a founder of Pick-Up America 2012-2013 (PUA, 2015). All are welcome to join in this effort. Groups are encouraged to register in advance. Rain date is the following Sunday, April 26th.

  1. Gain more knowledge about our local environment.

On Sunday, May 24th between 4pm and 6pm, we will walk along the walkway that abuts the stream where our community members have picked up debris and planted native plants and we will talk about the condition of the stream in general, the flora and fauna, the wildlife habitat and whatever else you would like to discuss, so we can all learn more while we enjoy a spring afternoon together. (Rain does not cancel.) John McCoy, CA Watershed Manager will be joining us. All are welcome.

Contact the village office for more information on any of the above events at (410) 730-7327.

OVER THE SPRING AND SUMMER, the Watershed Advisory Committee at the village will look more closely at several best storm water management and water conservation practices in upcoming blog posts, including bio-retention cells, grassy swales, rain barrels, permeable parking areas, underground irrigation systems, xeriscaping and more.

Patrice Donnelly is a member of the Hickory Ridge Village Association Watershed Advisory Committee and is currently completing an MBA in Sustainability and General Management.

References and Resources

Alberts, Claire Elizabeth. (2014). Plastic ingestion killing Shearwaters: But not for the reason you might think. Audubon.  Retrieved from http://www.audubon.org/magazine/may-june-2014/plastic-ingestion-killing-shearwaters

CA Communications. (2012). Planting trees in Columbia to slow the flow. [blog]. Retrieved from https://catodayblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/planting-trees-in-columbia-to-slow-the-flow/

Carson, L. (2010). John McCoy – New advocate for Columbia’s ailing watershed. Baltimore Sun. Retrieved from http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2010-07-17/news/bs-ho-watershed-mccoy-20100718_1_watershed-lake-kittamaqundi-plans-for-town-center

CBF. (2015). State of the Bay 2014. Retrieved from http://www.cbf.org/about-the-bay/state-of-the-bay-report-2014

CDC. (2014). Drinking Water. Private Water Wells. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/private/wells/

EPA. (2014). Managing Urban Runoff. Water: Polluted Runoff. Retrieved from http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/urban.cfm

The Nature Conservancy. (2015). Where does your water come from? Retrieved from http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/habitats/riverslakes/placesweprotect/where-does-your-water-come-from.xml

PUA. (2015). About. Retrieved from http://www.pickupamerica.org/#/home

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.