Columbia Association residents voiced opposition on Tuesday, Oct. 16 to the proposed draft legislation that would reclassify CA and its 10 villages under state law from homeowners associations to nonprofit community service corporations.
The purpose of the draft legislation, an amendment to the current Maryland Homeowners Association Act, is to exempt CA from future amendments proposed in response to issues in smaller homeowners associations, which CA staff says present unintended consequences to CA.
CA staff argues that CA attorneys and lobbyists waste time and resources researching and opposing these amendments, which often do not apply to CA, and that the reclassification will lighten the load by exempting CA from the amendments.
At Tuesday's two public hearings, residents, including Maryland Homeowners Association President Jeanne Ketley, expressed opposition to the draft bill and questioned its necessity.
"I believe the change is unnecessary and could prove detrimental to the good and orderly governance of CA," said Ketley, who lives in Town Center.
Ketley argued during the afternoon session the change could also omit CA from HOA act amendments that could improve the organization, and added that the reclassification may not exclude CA from future proposed HOA act amendments.
"No state legislature is going to exclude 100,000 residents from consumer protection rights," Ketley said.
Ketley said that if CA is reclassified, language in future proposed amendments could be manipulated to specifically include CA, in addition to state homeowners associations.
Following the evening session, CA general counsel Sheri Fanaroff said she disagreed with Ketley's statements because they were based on assumptions.
"Most amendments are proposed when there is a specific problem in a specific homeowners association," Fanaroff said. "There would be no reason to include CA as a nonprofit community service organization unless it was requested."
Fanaroff added that if CA felt future amendments to the HOA act benefited the organization or residents, it would have the option to be included in those amendments.
Columbia resident and attorney Henry Eigles questioned the timing and necessity of the change.
"As far as I can see, CA has worked reasonably well over the years and I don't know if anything has been presented that would require this change," Eigles said. "In my view, if it ain't broke you don't fix it."
CA media relations specialist David Greisman said CA began pursuing the legislation after members of the state legislature requested the organization address the issue.
Some residents also expressed concern about how the legislation affects CA's transparency.
By reclassifying CA, the proposed legislation would exempt CA from provisions of the current HOA act and replace them with amended provisions that, according to CA staff, better fits the organization's unique structure.
The majority of the amended provisions in the proposed legislation address transparency, specifically the governance of open meetings and the keeping of records.
Under the proposed legislation, CA meetings and records would be open and available to a larger segment of a public and, according to CA staff, increase CA's overall transparency.
CA board member Alex Hekimian, who opposes the legislation, said the public's overwhelming opposition should send a message to the CA board and the state delegation.
"I didn't hear anyone speak in favor of it," Hekimian said. "People were opposed and skeptical as to why this legislation is necessary. There is a groundswell in the community against this, and it's growing."
On Nov. 1, the CA Board's External Relations Committee will host a presentation and question-and-answer session on the bill with Howard County state lawmakers, who must introduce the legislation, and members of the County Council and Columbia's village boards.
CA Board members will further discuss the legislation at their regular meetings Nov. 8 and 20.