The Columbia Association Board of Directors voted to change its representation within the Inner Arbor Trust by electing Nancy McCord to replace Ed Coleman as one of the board's two representatives on the Trust's board of directors.
Gregg Schwind was reaffirmed as the second representative of the 10-member CA board and will continue serving on the seven-member Trust board, which oversees the Inner Arbor Trust. The Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation created in February of 2013 by the Columbia Association board to implement the Inner Arbor Plan for Symphony Woods – 36 acres of woodlands owned by CA in downtown Columbia.
The plan will create a curated arts park on the site that includes pathways, an outdoor amphitheater, a play scape and other attractions.
The move by CA should strengthen the board's standing within the Trust by ousting Coleman, who was elected to the Trust board as a CA representative before his defeat in the 2013 village elections, where he lost his seat on the CA board. Coleman remained on the Trust board for a year as a CA representative, even though he no longer had a formal relationship with CA,.
The decision to re-elect the two representatives was floated in March after Schwind said CA didn't have the representation it needed. The only other CA board member besides Schwind and McCord who volunteered to be considered for the post was Michael Cornell, the long-serving board member from River Hill.
In addition to having two CA board members on the Trust board, the Columbia Association president serves on the Trust board ex-officio – meaning whoever holds the office of president holds the seat.
That seat has also changed because CA President Phil Nelson's contract was not renewed, expiring on April 30. Columbia Association CFO Susan Krabbe has been named interim president while the board searches for a full-time replacement, and will assume the seat on the Trust board until that replacement is named.
Both Schwind and McCord, whose seats were up for re-election, have secured their positions on the CA board for the coming fiscal year, meaning CA will likely avoid the situation it had with Coleman.
The Inner Arbor Plan, which is in the midst of the Howard County government's downtown approval process, has received mixed reviews. County Executive Ken Ulman is a staunch proponent of the plan and has pledged $6.5 million to the Trust in the last two budget cycles. The county's Design Advisory Panel, a public advisory board that examines designs for projects in downtown Columbia, gave the plan their stamp of approval earlier this year.
There are a number of Columbia residents, however, who do not support the plan, and favor an alternative plan that includes a fountain plaza and is being championed by Cy Paumier. The alternative plan is a reboot of the original plan for the park, which was discarded in favor of the Inner Arbor Plan.
McCord, the board member from Wilde Lake, said she is not on either side of the fence, but that she is taking a more skeptical approach.
"I would prefer to reserve judgment," she said. "There are some aspects I'm not thrilled about, but until you see something live it's hard to judge."
McCord said she hopes to bring more transparency to the Trust board.
"I'd like to be able to assure people, because obviously this is hugely controversial issue. ... That this is going to be done as well as we could hope," she said. "That there are eyes on it and it's not just a runaway train."
Trust President Michael McCall said the Trust "looks forward" to adding McCord as a board member and that her first meeting will likely be when the Trust meets at the end of the month. McCall added that Schwind has been "instrumental" in forming the Trust.
Although a supporter of the plan in the past, Schwind might be changing his tune.
After his re-election Saturday, Schwind said he heard a lot from residents about the plan; and it wasn't all positive.
"Quite a few voters feel like they didn't have an opportunity to really examine and respond to the design before it moved forward," Schwind said. "I'm concerned about that. One of the things I'd like to do is work with the [new CA] president and increase the amount of dialogue to make sure residents' views are helping to shape what happens in Symphony Woods."
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