08 November 2007

When asking others for specifics, CA Board is short on specifics

Two articles today feature CA Board members focusing on who should pay rather than what is being paid for. In an article published this morning in the Baltimore Examiner, reporter Sara Michael (Downtown work costs questioned) indirectly quotes CA Board member, onetime blogger, and Bagel Bin Meeting Announcer Evan Coren (KC)

At the center of this question is the Columbia Association, and how much the
landowner and community organization is expected to contribute.
[O]ne concern
raised is that the Columbia Association stands to make millions of dollars from
the annual property assessment, and some residents say the board expects General
Growth to bear most of the costs.
“It brings money to CA and it brings
responsibility,” said former CA board member Jud Malone, adding that the board
has not been cooperating with the developer.
However, Coren contends the
costs of providing additional services could be more than the assessment will
bring in and the money should come from General Growth Properties.
It would be refreshing if Evan and his fellow board members would define what these possible “additional services” are. Clearly, the introduction of more residences and businesses in the downtown area will increase the revenue CA sees from its lien assessment. It is unclear what imagined “additional services” Evan is talking about.

Turning to the afternoon newspaper, the Columbia Flier published an article written by Andrai Blakely (CA Chairwoman wonders who will pay).

The chairwoman of the Columbia Association board of directors is concerned that
taxpayers might have to help pay for new roads and the maintenance of public
areas in a redeveloped downtown Columbia.
New residential and business
growth in Town Center would necessitate the construction of new infrastructure,
which in turn could lead to hikes in the county property tax rate and the annual
fees Columbia homeowners pay CA, to cover the cost of that construction, said
Barbara Russell, of Oakland Mills.
For that reason, she hopes that the a
30-year master plan to guide downtown's redevelopment that officials are
drafting contains specific information about who would pay for downtown's new
roads, water and sewer lines, and maintaining that infrastructure, Russell said
last week.

Here, Barbara is specific. Regrettably, her specific concerns show how little she knows about the process. The County is very specific on who pays for roads when development occurs. The developer does. As for water and sewer, I don’t know if Barbara knows this, but there already is water and sewer available in downtown Columbia. Planned (and funded) upgrades to the sewer lines will have sufficient capacity to allow for downtown development.

Now, if I were completely cynical, I would think that Barbara Russell is raising the specter of increased taxes and increased lien assessments to instill fear in the population, but Barbara has never seemed to be that way.

I suppose Barbara is confusing this type of development with her plan to expand the water and sewer service area farther west. Her plan would certainly be orders of magnitude more expensive (at least in terms of infrastructure support) than any development downtown. So I suppose her concern about infrastructure costs and taxes are good reasons to not pursue her plan and to instead support the downtown plan. Later on in the Columbia Flier article, Barbara does venture into the void of vagaries:

She [Barbara Russell] pointed out that CA owns substantial property downtown and
is responsible for providing recreational services to Columbia, adding that the
association might not be able to afford providing new services without hiking
the annual fee it charges property owners.

Once again, just “recreational services,” not anything specific. What specific service is so expensive that CA Board members cannot even say its name?

And why is CA Board member Gail Broida (TC) silent on this issue? Granted we could have a day-long discussion about the CA Board being responsible for all of Columbia versus just representing individual villages. However, the Village residents elect the Columbia Council Representatives (which in turn become CA Board members).

I believe that if some CA Board members (hypothetically) singled out neighborhoods, such as Thunder Hill or Longfellow, and said that CA would not support any amenities in these areas, the CA Board members that represent those neighborhoods would vehemently defend them. In this case, Gail appears to be content with letting the future lien assessments to be taken from Town Center residents and applied to any other part of the community except downtown.

Maybe she could join Evan Coren and Barbara Russell, take those liens when they come in, and build an outdoor ice rink (scroll way down).

[t]here was not majority support for a new outdoor skating rink in Oakland Mills, however Ms. Russell and Mr. Coren stated another rink was warranted. According to CA, the current rink loses $450,000/year.


Anonymous said...

Russell and Coren are political allies. It's less about what's right and more about looking out for each other. Additionally, they are much, much better at holding others accountable than they are at being accountable.

Anonymous said...

I also find it interesting that both appeared in papers on the same day saying the same thing.

Tom said...

Please, don't confuse what individual Board Members say with what the full Board says.

Anonymous said...

The Board reflect the leadership. Russell is the elected Chair, therefore, she is the voice of the Board.