Oakland Mills candidates present cases at forum

The two candidates from Oakland Mills presented their cases for serving on the Columbia Council Tuesday evening at the village candidate forum in the Other Barn.

Incumbent Alex Hekimian and challenger Julia McCready fielded a variety of questions from the 25 to 30 residents in attendance for approximately an hour. 

Among the issues broached was the Inner Arbor Plan, a concept plan approved for Symphony Woods Park which proposes an arts village on the eastern side of the woods.

McCready, a proponent of the plan, addressed a question regarding the number of trees affected by the implementation of the plan.

"The Inner Arbor Plan is there to focus on the trees and focus on nature and create the kind of natural habit that is worth preserving," McCready said. 

Hekimian, who was one of only two board members to vote against the approval of the plan, is skeptical about moving forward with the plan, and cited the uncertainty surrounding trees as one of the issues.

"My view is, whatever plan gets implemented needs to respect those majestic trees," Hekimian said.  "We've seen a lot of versions of a plan for Symphony Woods. ... We don't know how many trees the Inner Arbor Plan will take down, and I hope we can get that soon."

Other issues discussed were reviving plans for a possible footbridge over Route 29--or what supporters call Bridge Columbia--, noise at Blandair Park and creating more openness and transperancy between residents and CA. 

And while the debate was dotted with points of contention, Hekimian described the relationship between himself and his challenger as amicable. 

"I see this as a friendly competition," Hekimian said the contested election. "Both Julia and I love Columbia and want us to be the best it can be, it just boils down on how to get there."

Also on hand were the six candidates seeking one year terms on the Oakland Mills Village Board. Those candidates are Reginald Avery, Margaret Mauro, Phil Engelke, Jervis Dorton, Bill Gray and Liz Smull. 

Since there are six candidates for seven seats, the village board election will be uncontested. A seventh board member will be appointed after the election. 

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