Low attendance, strong participation at River Hill candidate forum

With the Columbia Council election less than four days away, the two candidates vying to represent the village of River Hill presented their cases to a small, but participatory, contingent of seven residents Tuesday at the village candidate forum. 

Incumbent Michael Cornell, who has served the last six years on the CA board, and challenger Clayborne Chavers, a Washington-based attorney, amicably discussed many issues including fostering community engagement and the future of Symphony Woods.

 “I’m looking forward to serving another term on the CA board,” Cornell said during his closing statement. “I’d like to continue to make things happen.”

Chavers, who thanked Cornell for his years of service, believes it is time for “new blood.”

“I encourage all of you to appreciate the services (Michael) has provided, but it’s time for something different, and I’d like to be that something different,” Chavers said.

Chavers said he was implored to run for the seat after residents expressed concerns about a lack of representation on the CA board.

“My whole focus is to implement inclusion, to make sure there are diverse opinions, diverse people, diverse representation,” Chavers said.

In reference to the contentious issue of Symphony Woods and the proposed Inner Arbor Plan, which will develop an arts village on the eastern side of the park, Chavers and Cornell differed in their opinions.

Cornell, who voted in favor of the plan, spoke about the importance of the Inner Arbor Trust, an entity applying for 501c3 status that will manage the development of the parcel.

“The trust is being set up so it can solicit donations from residents, businesses, philanthropic sources,” Cornell said. “CA can’t afford to build the Inner Arbor, it is as simple as that. … We are looking for ways to partner with other stakeholders in the community.”

Chavers said he sees merits to both arguments for and against the concept plan, but was adamantly against the creation of the Inner Arbor Trust.

“Creating a non-profit entity frankly makes no sense,” Chavers said. “It serves no purpose other than to circumvent the Columbia Association.”

Also in attendance was Kathy Chavers, who is one of the two candidates running uncontested for the River Hill village board.

The polls will be at Claret Hall from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 20.   

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