Letter: CA lien-payers would lose with Symphony Woods Trust

Key to the Columbia Association's wholesale revision of its "People's Plan" for Symphony Woods — i.e., the plan developed collaboratively by renowned architects, residents and CA Board and staff  — is a proposed "Symphony Woods Trust."

At CA's meeting on Jan. 31, I was surprised to learn that this entity would not actually be a "Trust."  Rather, it would be a non-stock corporation, which will apply for IRS designation as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

In 1984, CA's application to the IRS for 501(c)(3) status was denied largely because CA was deemed not sufficiently charitable toward the general public. (CA differentiates between lien-payers and non-lien-payers in the fees it charges.) This denial was upheld through two appeals. The Appeals Court agreed with the Tax Court that CA was "organized and operated for a disqualifying private purpose, namely the promotion and protection of the interests of the residents of Columbia."    

No matter how the IRS rules on this request, CA lien-payers lose.  If it grants the 501(c)(3), Columbia lien-payers could not receive preferential access or reduced rates for admissions and rentals.  If the IRS denies the 501(c)(3) status, CA lien-payers will be out the many thousands of their assessment dollars spent for the revised plan and as seed money for the trust-that-is-not-really-a trust.

Tom Scott

Wilde Lake Village

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