Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Gift that Keeps on Giving


This has been a week. Challenges abounded. I often take Saturdays off from blogging, but I felt the need to wrap things up: with some unwrapping.

When I was little I had a toy called Kitty in the Kegs. You'll see from the picture that it consisted of numerous plastic barrels which all nested one within the other. The smallest held a tiny cat. Only when I got older did I discover Matryoshka dolls which are pretty much the same thing, only they come in a wider variety of personae.

This week was an exercise in understanding and accessing the many-nesting components of my community. Let's look at the photo of Matryoshka dolls from Wikipedia.

As they are already conveniently opened up, let's start from the smallest and work our way up. The smallest doll represents My House. This is where I have domain over issues such as who empties the trash, who makes coffee in the morning, and when we are going to decorate the house for Christmas.

Moving one level up is my Home Owners Association: Cinnamon Tree at Talbott Springs. We have a resident board. I contacted our president Michael Knott when the State Highway Administration turned up earlier in the week. The next doll represents Howard Property Management, the firm hired by the HOA to collect Association fees and carry out the decisions such as parking lot repairs, snow shoveling, grass cutting, leaf raking, and much more.

Now we begin to reach the village level. I am going to dedicate the fourth doll to the Village RAC, because the first contact many people have with the Village is needing RAC approval. There are residents who deal with RAC issues and yet never learn any more about the Village. Sad, but true. This week our HOA president turned to our Covenant Advisor Deb Bach (who works with the RAC) on the SHA issue.

Next row: the Oakland Mills Community Association. This is where you will find information about OM issues, activities, and elections. Village Manager Sandy Cederbaum works with the community-elected Village Board to plan activities, communicate with residents, resolve disputes, support local schools. When Second Chance co-owner Wendy Binder reached out to me this week about lease issues with Cedar properties, I immediately suggested she contact Sandy, and Bill Gray, chair of the Village Board. They have already been incredibly helpful.

While we all care about the Village Center, we don't own it. In fact, the land is owned by a variety of owners. For the sake of this exercise, our next doll will be Cedar Properties. They own a majority of the retail space, though not all. Residents who want to see The Second Chance Saloon continue its successful business in Oakland Mills need to express that opinion to Cedar Properties.

Moving up: the Columbia Association. Heads up: "the Columbia Association (CA) is a 501(c)(4) non-profit service corporation that manages Columbia, MD., a master planned community..." This means CA is not a government entity. You may laugh, but it isn't all that clear to many. After all, we do have elections...

In the Oakland Mills Village Center they own The Barn (Youth and Teen Center), The Other Barn (Village management and events), and the Ice Skating Rink. It is to the Columbia Association that you pay your assessment fee each year. Go here to get a better view of what that covers. Open Space, tot lots, and a variety of activities and amenities, so many that I am afraid of leaving something out. Within the monies that you pay to CA is a portion which they are authorized by prior agreement to collect on behalf of your Village--in my case, Oakland Mills, to support individual village programs.

Whew! Where are we? Oh, yes. Howard County Schools. If you have kids, the schools are very likely your first experience with Howard County. School requirements, activities, issues about weather closings, school lunches--all fall under hcpss.

Next size in the chain is Howard County government. Here you have everything pertaining to Howard County, including Columbia. (See how nicely Columbia nests inside?)

Street sign down? Road needs to be plowed? Howard County. Decisions about facilities managed by Howard County Recreation and Parks? Howard County. In the case of what sort of an entrance residents want on Timesweep for Blaindair Regional Park, the county will be holding a public meeting at Talbott Springs Elementary School on Tuesday, December 17th, at 7:00 pm. And don't forget to come out to participate in upcoming budget hearings.

If you have never been to a County Council meeting, you should, and get to know your own council member. I have worked with mine,Calvin Ball, on numerous issues. Not everything in life is easily resolved, but I am always grateful for our elected officials and staff in HoCoMD. It was awesome to see the County Executive and team share our spirit of pride and fun on Thursday during #morethangateway-gate.

So there you have it:



Residential property management

RAC/Covenant Advisor


Cedar Properties/Commercial property management

Columbia Association

Howard County Public Schools

Howard County Government

And all in one convenient carrying case! If you still have locals on your gift list, I'd say this is one thing everyone needs. In fact, I needed every bit of this in one week alone.


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