State delegates: Window closing on CA exemption bill

The window for the Columbia Association board to present state lawmakers with proposed legislation that would reclassify the organization under state law in time for its 2013 General Assembly is closing, two of those lawmakers said this week.

"It seems a bit of a stretch at this point that we would actually be able to consider it this year," said state Del. Guzzone, a Columbia Democrat, at CA's public briefing on the legislation inside Historic Oakland on Thursday.

Guzzone said the state legislature has an internal deadline for submission of legislation of Nov. 9 and a hard deadline of Nov. 13.

The legislation, which is in draft form, is still several steps away from being put to a board vote.

"If this is still in draft form, they will miss the deadline for the year," Del. Frank Turner, also a Columbia Democrat, said. "There's no way it could move this year."

The controversial legislation would reclassify CA from a homeowner's association, governed under the Maryland Homeowner's Association Act, to a non-profit community services corporation.

The draft bill would be presented as an amendment to the current state HOA act, and, if enacted, would exclude CA from future amendments to the act.

By reclassifying CA, the proposed legislation would exempt CA from provisions of the current HOA act deemed either redundant or ill-fitting and replace them with amended provisions that, according to CA staff, better fits the organization's unique structure.

"The most prominent reason (for the proposed legislation) is to put us in a classification that we fit in well," CA general counsel Sheri Fanaroff said. "We really don't fit well in the HOA classification."

Critics, however, have argued that the bill is not needed and could make CA less transparent and open.

According to members of CA staff, approximately 20 amendments per year are proposed to the HOA act that, if approved, would have detrimental affects on CA.

In response to a question from Turner, Fanaroff said none of the more than 100 potentially detrimental amendments proposed over the last five years have been implemented, thanks, in part, to the work of CA lobbyist Paul Tiburzi.

"I don't see what the issue is, and I don't see the purpose of this," Turner said. "When legislation comes up (that is detrimental to CA) we will deal with it then."

Fanaroff said the bill was proposed after members of the state House and Senate committees focused on HOA issues requested CA explore taking a more comprehensive approach to the issue instead of the current "piece-meal" approach.

Fanaroff added that it is uncertain that CA will continue to be successful in evading potentially detrimental amendments proposed in the future.

CA board member Cynthia Coyle said the input from the delegates and some 20 members of the public — who voiced opposition to the legislation at two October public hearings — has given the board "food for thought."

"I believe we have a lot of work still in front of us," Coyle said. "This tells me we are not going to be ready in time."

Coyle added that the board has not yet made a decision on how to further proceed with the legislation, and that she anticipates the board will discuss that at its next meeting on Thursday, Nov. 8.

"If the board wants to pursue this then they have a year to do it," Guzzone said. "But they have a fair amount of work to do."

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