After months of planning, the Ellicott City Residents' Association -- a group designed to represent the town's 30 to 40 community associations -- became official last night at a meeting at the historic Mount Hebron House in Ellicott City.
"I think we'll be the nucleus of what one day will be a much larger organization," said Robert I. Bernstein, president of the Old Columbia Pike Association and president of the new residents' group. "What helps is just being involved, being involved in the community, not just sitting back until, plop!, something's going on in your back yard."
Historically, Ellicott City's community groups have acted independently, without communicating with each other. They made rules and fought their development battles alone.
But increasingly, residents of the town have become frustrated, feeling that developers, armed with money and astute lawyers, have an unfair advantage over citizens. Bernstein, who has been involved in several development disputes, thought residents would have more influence if they formed one big group and could share information.
According to its bylaws, signed into effect last night, the group aims to help preserve "the residential and historical charm" of Ellicott City and improve the quality of life for residents.
Yesterday, the Howard County Council passed a resolution officially recognizing the association.
The group elected Andrea Thomas, a member of the St. John's Community Association, as secretary.
"This is good," said Thomas, who has been involved in a development battle in her community. "This is wonderful. There's safety in numbers. There's sharing of knowledge. It just can't miss."
Although only seven community groups signed the bylaws last night, Thomas said she thinks more will get involved.
"I think that there's less apathy out there than you might be led to believe," she said. "People really do care."