CA board votes to table HOA bill until January

The Columbia Association board Tuesday unanimously voted to table until January a draft bill that would reclassify CA and the 10 villages under the Maryland Homeowners' Association Act.

The controversial legislation is an amendment to the HOA Act, and would reclassify CA from a homeowners association to a newly created entity called "nonprofit community services corporation."

If passed, CA and the 10 villages would be the only organizations under the act classified as a nonprofit community service corporation.

The board ultimately decided to table the legislation until January to give the 10 villages time to present the draft legislation to an independent legal counsel for review and recommendation.

A motion made by Hickory Ridge resident Gregg Schwind to abandon the legislation entirely was defeated by a vote of 5-4, with Town Center representative Suzanne Waller absent.

"To close it down without giving (the villages) time to consider if they are in favor of it, I'm uncomfortable with that," Dorsey's Search representative Tom Coale said. "The villages have a right to an informed opinion on this from legal counsel. That input, if they are in favor of it, would be valuable, and if they are not in favor of it, all the more reason to shut it down."

According to the board, the villages are scheduled to meet with independent legal counsel in December.

The purpose of the bill is to reclassify CA, and the 10 villages, into a category that better suits the organization's unique size and structure, according to CA general counsel Sheri Fanaroff. 

In addition, by reclassifying, CA would become exempt from future amendments to the HOA act that, if passed, would pose unintended consequences to the organization, according to CA spokesman David Greisman.

Greisman said approximately 20 of these bills are submitted to the delegation each year, and often they are in response to issues in smaller homeowners associations, that do not have the same controls as CA.

At a Nov. 1 public meeting, state delegates Frank Turner and Guy Guzzone expressed hesitation about the legislation, and were skeptical that the bill would be ready in time to be considered in the 2013 legislative session.

According to Guzzone, CA has already missed the Nov. 13 deadline for the bill to be considered for sponsorship by the state delegation from Howard County.

Although that deadline has passed, the bill can still be presented to the delegation through an alternative route. One individual state delegate or senator, who does not have to be from Howard County, can sponsor the bill and submit it for consideration as late as February, according to Fanaroff. 

"We have a chicken and egg problem," Fanaroff said at a Nov. 8 CA meeting. "Our delegation is not going to stick their necks out and take a position on this legislation unless and until this board decides what it wants to do."

Fanaroff added that, if the board recommended the legislation, she believes CA would not have difficulty getting a Howard County delegate or senator to sponsor the bill.

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