"The CA board has done a lot to take away its 'stigma' of dysfunction. We have delegates, senators and county officials applauding CA for the things we have done as far as taking a leadership role in, for instance, Symphony Woods," Clay said.

"That hasn't always been the case and we want to continue that support," he added.

Long Reach incumbent Ed Coleman, who was recently elected by the 10-member CA board to serve on the board of the Inner Arbor Trust, has expressed skepticism about the plan, but wants to keep the momentum going.

"This is step one of a one thousand step process," Coleman said regarding setting up the Inner Arbor Trust, which is in the process of applying for 501(c)(3) status with the Internal Revenue Service.


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"I don't want to leap without looking but I want to move forward. We have the momentum. Now is not the time to stop."

Communication issues

While the Inner Arbor Plan is at the forefront, some see it as a sign of an overarching issue.

"Symphony Woods is a symptom of a larger issue of openness and transparency," said Hekimian.

River Hill challenger Chavers said he believes the approval of the Inner Arbor Plan has brought to light a pattern of CA board practices he would like to see changed.

"It's caused people to take note of the conduct of the affairs of the Columbia Association," said Chavers, a Washington-based attorney specializing in civil rights and diversity.

"I'm concerned the board is not being more responsible to the needs of the citizenry. Homeowners have to be viewed as the constituency the CA board is responsible to."

Chavers said he personally favors the previous "park" plan for Symphony Woods over the Inner Arbor, but that his vote on any issue would be based on resident input, not his personal feeling.

"My personal preference has no greater significance then the homeowners I represent," Chavers said.

And although McCready differs from Hekimian and Chavers on her personal view of the future of Symphony Woods, she agrees it has become a symbol for a larger issue.

"It's a symptom of a larger question of 'Who will speak for Columbia?' We are not the only generation going to live here," said the 53-year-old McCready.

McCready, who teaches music and movement to students with special needs in the Howard County Public School System, said that one of her goals, if elected, would be to find ways for younger people to get involved in CA.

"I'm a teacher. My goal is to share with the greater public," she said. "We have a constituency of older residents who are concerned, which is great, but we need to find younger voices."

Both McCready and McCord, the two challengers currently serving on village boards, said one issue they would like addressed is the overall lack of communication between the CA board and the boards of each village.

"I think communication between the CA board and the villages is hugely critical," McCord said.

McCord also hopes to improve communication between the residents and the CA board.

"We need to work together rather than be so divisive," she said. "I can understand the residents' problems, after all. I am a resident."