Columbia Association, Inner Arbor hold first joint meeting

The Columbia Association Board of Directors and the Board of Directors for the Inner Arbor Trust Wednesday held their first joint public meeting, which was viewed as an integral step for the future development of Symphony Woods.

The meeting, a work session held at CA's lakefront headquarters, was called by the CA board for two reasons: to get an update on the Trust's plans for the park, and to get answers to certain questions.

"We are committed to ensuring that we keep an open dialogue with CA and the Inner Arbor Trust board," said Martin Knott, chairman of the Inner Arbor board. "We are excited to open up the conversation."

The Inner Arbor Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation created in February 2013 by the Columbia Association to manage the development of Symphony Woods, which is owned by CA. The Trust, which is led by President Michael McCall, is in the process of implementing the Inner Arbor Plan -- a broad vision that includes bringing an arts district and curated attractions to the woodlands.

Phase one of the plan, which includes an arts park on 16 acres north of Merriweather Post Pavilion, is going through the county's downtown approval process. McCall said at the meeting that he hopes to bring the plan to the Planning Board for approval in late summer.

The update was generally well received by the board, although some skeptics of the plan, specifically Alan Klein from Harper's Choice and Reg Avery from Oakland Mills, expressed concerns.

Both Klein and Avery said they wanted the Trust to come to the CA board and ask for approval if any "material changes" are made. Avery also said he would like to know more about the operating plans for the park, which Knott said are being developed.

Andy Stack, chair of the Columbia Association board, said it is the board's intention to have regular meetings and updates with the Trust board.

"We will try to get them on a regular basis once everything gets established," Stack said.

Nancy McCord, a CA board member from Wilde Lake and a Trust board member, noted the importance of having the meeting.

"I think it was really good we had this initial meeting, I'm really glad this finally happened," she said.

Many of the residents who testified at the meeting did so in favor of the plan, although there were some who criticized it.

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