Annual Report, May 1, 2017 – April 30, 2018: River Hill Keeps Getting Better

The River Hill Community Association (RHCA) Board of Directors (RHBOD) is responsible for overseeing the Association’s operations, establishing Association policies and procedures, advocating on behalf of the community, and generally ensuring that the Association is working to enhance the quality of life for the property owners and residents of the Village of River Hill. During FY18, Richard Thomas served as RHBOD Chairperson, assisted by Vice Chair Harjeet Jandu. Also serving on the RHBOD were: Robert Choi, Renée DuBois, Tony Miceli, Dalia Shlash, and Liyan Zhang. Chao Wu completed the first year of his second term as River Hill’s Columbia Council Representative and ex officio RHBOD member. Jennifer Zhang, Yamini Ananth and Cindy Tian served as the Student Members on the Board. Day- to-day operations of the Association are handled by a paid staff.

The Year in Review

Informing and Involving the Community

The Association uses the following tools to communicate with residents:

The Villager, a monthly newsletter delivered to all properties by carriers, including many youths who live in the community. In FY18, the carriers were: Sean Boullé, Garrett Donnelly, Trevor Donnelly, Erin Duncan, Luke Duncan, Sarah Gezewich, Hannah Gitelman, Lucas Gitelman, Jacob Hamet, Joshua Hernandez, Matt Hernandez, Kenzie Kleinberger, Melissa Kleinberger, Sarah Kleinberger, Maddie Lynott, Sydney Lynott, Woodie Lynott, Nitesh Parikh, Sayyeed Mohammed, Alison Siil, Caroline Siil, and Robby Windsor;

The Association’s website: www.villageofriverhill.org;

Facebook – www.Facebook.com/RiverHillCommunityAssociation (571 followers);

Facebook – www.Facebook.com/ClaretHallMD (68 followers);

Facebook www.Facebook.com/WatershedCommittee (91 followers);

Twitter – @RHCAClarksville (340 followers); and

Constant Contact emails (846 active contacts).

The Villager is the official publication of the Association, the prime method of communication with residents, and a major tool for enhancing connections with and between residents. The advertising revenue generated by The Villager is essential to its production and RHCA’s operating budget. In FY18, advertising revenue from The Villager increased 2.3% when compared to FY17. However, The Villager continues to struggle for brand recognition due to the publication of Clarksville Neighbors and Living at the Hill which have no connection to the Association.

Association staff, located at Claret Hall, are a resource for members of the community. Staff directs residents to the appropriate organizations when questions or issues arise that are outside their areas of responsibility. Visitors to the community center will find information on local events and area non-profits, Exterior Alteration Application forms and Architectural Guidelines, Association Resale Packages, new resident Welcome Packets, copies of the Columbia Flier, and more. The Association maintains service provider lists for: lawn mowing, babysitting, and snow shoveling.

The Association continues to have a strong commitment to involving local youth. River Hill’s Teen Advisory Committee (TAC) is key to making many Association-sponsored, community building events a success. They help to plan and staff events including: Independence Day Parade, Health Fair, Haunted Hallows Eve, and Breakfast with Santa. In FY18 the TAC organized the very successful Bob Ross-Inspired Paint Night which raised donations for Arts Every Day. In addition to being involved in these activities themselves, the TAC arranges for many other teens to volunteer, thus engaging even more members of the community. Jennifer Zhang, Yamini Ananth, and Cindy Tian chaired the TAC in FY18. The members of the TAC for the 2017-2018 school year were: Ashley Chen, Jeffrey Du, Tobias Eegholm, Anna Feng, Catalina Lennon, Alena Shen, Carol Wang, and Isabelle Zhan. RHCA continues to be the Chartering Organization for Boy Scout Troop 618 and Michael Cornell served as the Chartering Organization’s Representative.

The Association offered the following community building programs and events:

  • Block Party Grants
  • Cul de Sac Beautification Grants
  • Food on the 15th Collection Drive (all year)
  • Neighborhood Watch (all year)
  • Flea Market (June 2017)
  • Bugs That Bite Workshop (May 2017)
  • Coupon Clipping to benefit Military Families (May/June 2017)
  • Independence Day Parade (July 2017)
  • Prepare for Success School Supply Donation Site (July/August 2017)
  • River Hill Pool Party (August 2017)
  • WatershedPalooza (September 2017)
  • Neighborhood Yard Sales (September 2017)
  • School Redistricting Meetings (September & October 2017)
  • Shredding & E-cycling Event (October 2017)
  • Haunted Hallows Eve (October 2017, in conjunction with the River Hill Village Center Merchants and Kimco Realty)
  • Leveling the Playing Field Sports Equipment Donation Site (December 2017)
  • Breakfast with Santa (December 2017)
  • Volunteer Appreciation (January 2018)
  • CA Open Space Management Appreciation Luncheon (January 2018)
  • School’s Out Bingo (February 2017)
  • CA’s Teen Outreach Committee Toiletries Drive Donation Site (January 2018)
  • Master Gardener Seminars: Trees, Wonderful Trees (May 2017), Healthy Harvests (March 2018), Rain Barrels (April 2018), Rain Gardens (April 2018).
  • Bob Ross – Inspired Paint Night (March 2018)
  • Columbia Clean-up Day (March 2018)
  • Columbia-Wide Searching for Spring Egg Hunt (March 2018)
  • Watershed Committee Pull & Plant (April 2018)
  • Shredding & E-cycling Event (April 2018)
  • Village Election Day (April 2018)

Open Space and the Environment

The Columbia Association (CA) owns and is responsible for maintaining the open space in the village which has 14.25 miles of pathway and 24 tot lots. In response to resident requests for a community playground with more modern and larger play environments than the existing tot lots, in FY18 the RHBOD formed an Ad Hoc Tot Lot Committee. This committee is chaired by Dalia Shlash, a RHBOD member. During FY18, the committee worked with CA Open Space Management staff to identify possible locations for a community playground. Two sites were identified, feedback from residents was obtained, and multiple community meetings were held. Based on resident input, the RHBOD ruled out both sites for a community playground and instead requested that CA upgrade two tot lots, one in the Pheasant Ridge neighborhood and one in Pointers Run. The RHBOD and ad hoc committee advocated for the inclusion of funding in CA’s FY19/20 capital budget for these tot lot improvements. The committee worked with CA to identify which tot lots are best suited for upgrades and obtained additional resident feedback. Based on this input, in early FY19 the RHBOD selected Tot Lot RH-25 (off of Indian Summer Drive and between Summer Sky Path and Distant Thunder Trail) as the tot lot to be upgraded in the Pheasant Ridge neighborhood. CA will purchase and install the new equipment in FY19. A tot lot in the Pointers Run neighborhood has not yet been selected. Pointers Run residents should continue to watch for announcements of meetings and additional opportunities for input in FY19.

River Hill has a very active Watershed Advisory Committee (WAC) that focuses on educating residents and undertaking efforts to reduce storm water runoff and erosion and improve watershed quality. WAC Members are: Simone Smith (Chair), Sari Chapman, Bruce Eberle, Cara Heilveil, Elisabeth Hoffman, Heidi Hoffmeister, Lauren Marcus, Rae Correll-Brown (Student Representative), and Megan Rabe (Student Representative). Robert Choi served at the RHBOD’s liaison to this committee. John McCoy, CA’s Watershed Manager, provided guidance to the committee. The Association is pleased that Cara Heilveil was appointed to represent the village on the Columbia Association’s Watershed Committee.

In FY18, the WAC ran the annual Community Clean-up, participated in the Independence Day Parade, and ran a game at the Haunted Hallows Eve Event. New this year was the WatershedPalooza event held in the fall. To earn her Girl Scout Silver Award, Chloe Hoffmeister, an 8th grade student at Clarksville Middle School and River Hill resident, helped the committee organize the WatershedPalooza. Committee members also collaborated with students at River Hill High School to renovate the school’s rain garden. At the end of FY17, the WAC was awarded a $7,820 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust. The committee worked with CA staff in FY18 to develop plans for a rain garden demonstration site in the open space adjacent to the River Hill Meeting Room and outdoor pool. The rain garden will be installed in FY19 and the grant will help fund a portion of the cost. Throughout the year, the WAC keeps the community informed via the “Tip of the Month” column in The Villager, WAC website www.villageofriverhill.org/watershed, and WAC Facebook page www.facebook.com/WatershedCommittee.

Covenant Enforcement

River Hill residents serve on the Association’s Architectural Committee (AC) and Resident Architectural Committee (RAC) to ensure the covenant process runs smoothly and changes made to residential properties are in keeping with the community. During FY18, the following River Hill residents put in many hours on be- half of the community: Mohammad Saleem (AC Chair), Karen Jespersen (AC), Karen Smith (AC), Debbie Trapuzzano (AC), Ilona Mallon (AC), Syed Ahmad (RAC), Roy C. Brown II (RAC), Thomas D. Johnson (RAC), Jim Munro (RAC), Gary Sauers (RAC Chair), and S. Jennifer Zhai (RAC). The RAC and AC reviewed 195 exterior alterations and in-home business applications in FY18, 2 less than in FY17. The AC is responsible for hearing and making decisions on all appeal requests. There was 1 appeal hearing in FY18. The AC also reviews all covenant enforcement actions reaching the 15-Day Violation Notice stage and evaluates the need for further action on the part of the Village Association and CA.

Although not required, RHCA strongly encourages property owners to request a letter of compliance inspection prior to selling their homes. This inspection aids in maintaining property values and the aesthetics of the community. The Covenant Advisor is responsible for conducting the letter of compliance inspections and coordinating with the property owner, RAC, and AC as needed. The Association received 126 requests for letter of compliance inspections in FY18, 2 more than in FY17. Of these properties, 20 were non-compliant on the first inspection and had to be re-inspected to receive a letter of compliance. One property was sold in Non-Compliance status. Following property transfer, the Covenant Advisor follows up with the new property owners to extinguish all outstanding issues.

The Association processed 152 complaints during FY18, a 37.5% increase over the number of complaints received in the prior year. Covenant complaints are processed by the Covenant Advisor on behalf of the AC. All other complaints are referred by staff to the appropriate departments within Howard County Government, CA, Kimco Realty (the owners of the Village Center) or the State Highway Administration. When a property owner does not resolve a covenant violation, the Association can proceed with further action. This action may include restricting residents from using CA facilities and programs, flagging CA’s assessment files to identify a covenant violation should the property transfer ownership, and/or proceeding with legal action. During FY18, 3 properties were referred by the Association to CA for further action. At the end of FY18 there were 3 active cases with the CA’s Architectural Resource Committee (ARC).

Development, Traffic, and Safety Matters

Development and associated traffic and safety issues continue to be a focus for the Association. The Association’s Development Advisory Committee (DAC) monitored and reviewed development plans, attended meetings, and advised the RHBOD on a variety of matters. Renée DuBois, RHBOD member, chaired this committee. Tony Miceli, RHBOD member, chaired the Traffic and Safety Committee. The following residents served on the Traffic and Safety Committee: David Elsaesser, Marty Ehrlich, and Matt Levine. Jack Sacchetti served on both committees.

During FY18, the Association:

  • Continued to monitor development plans for the Simpson Oaks residential development;
  • Submitted written input to the County’s Design Advisory Panel (DAP) regarding revised plans for the River Hill Square (former River Hill Garden Center property) project;
  • Solicited resident input and gave verbal testimony before the Zoning Board and provided written input to the County’s DAP and Planning Board regarding Erickson Living II, LLC’s proposal for a continuing care retirement community in Clarksville;
  • Advocated successfully on behalf of residents to relocate a new cell tower installation to the eastern side of the WR Grace property away from existing and future single-family homes.
  • Coordinated with the Police Department and the Department of Public Works to analyze speeds and enforce traffic regulations in the Pointers Run neighborhood in the areas of Ripe Apple Lane, Empty Song Road, River Run, and Summer Sunrise Drive.
  • Met with representatives from the Office of Transportation, Department of Public Works, and State Highway Administration. Advocated for traffic and safety related improvements along MD 108 and Great Star Drive.
  • Coordinated with Kimco Realty to have speed bumps installed along Daybreak Circle in front of the businesses and advocated for other safety improvements to be made.

Facility Management

Under an agreement with CA, the Association manages Claret Hall and the Meeting Room (adjacent to the outdoor pool). The Association is responsible for administering all facility rentals and ensuring that the buildings as well as furniture and fixtures are maintained and updated as needed. Both facilities are used by the Association for community meetings and events. In FY18, free usage of space was given to the following organizations: Columbia Clippers Swim League, Pointers Run Piranhas Swim Team, Pheasant Ridge Rapids Swim Team, Girl Scout Troop #10318, and the River Hill High School Boys Basketball Teams.

By renting space at both buildings, the Association generates revenue to fund operations, programs, and services. The Association maintains an online presence to promote the rental of the facilities: www.ClaretHall.org and www.Facebook.com/ClaretHall-MD. During FY18, both buildings continued to be well utilized. Revenue from social, business, and class rentals and lease agreements increased a total of 17.3% over the prior year. The following classes were offered at the facilities and provided an opportunity for members of the community to be active and to connect with one another: GOSU Martial Arts, Adult Ballroom Dance, Chinese Wushu, Music Together, Tien Shan Kung Fu, Triathlean, and Zumba. The Church of God leased space at Claret Hall and the Church of Christ leased space at both facilities.

RHCA is responsible for expenses related to the day-to-day operation and maintenance of Claret Hall and the Meeting Room. Utilities, pest management, HVAC quarterly maintenance, janitorial services, interior painting, and the purchase of furniture and fixtures are among the responsibilities of the Association. In FY18, the Columbia Association renovated the kitchenette at the Meeting Room to make it ADA compliant. CA also replaced the roof on the entire building, the flooring in the kitchen, and the flooring in the main room. Following these renovations, RHCA repainted the interior of the Meeting Room and purchased additional tables for use in the space. To upgrade Claret Hall, the Association purchased a new dishwasher, 3 hi-top tables, 40 new banquet style chairs, and 25 replacement folding white chairs. In FY18 one desktop computer was replaced and memory was added to two others.

What Lies Ahead

In FY19 RHCA will focus on growing the amount of revenue we generate through renting the facilities and newsletter advertising while seeking to minimize expenses and improve efficiency. An increase in unrestricted net assets, will help the Association replenish emergency reserves, allow for capital expenditures that are increasingly needed as Claret Hall and the Meeting Room age, and provide additional and improved programs and services to River Hill residents.

Columbia’s village associations are still negotiating a new Management Contract with CA. This contract enables RHCA to manage Claret Hall and the River Hill Meeting Room and retain rental revenues to fund association operations. The contract also defines village reporting requirements and the operational relationships between CA and the village associations. It is RHCA’s hope that a 5-year Management Contract agreement can be reached that balances the needs of the village associations with CA’s.

In late FY18, CA began an evaluation of Columbia’s neighborhood centers, including the River Hill Meeting Room, focused on finances and building usage. The data being collected will be used to make long-term decisions regarding the future of these facilities and could result in significant changes. The RHBOD is also thinking about the future. Where should the Association focus its efforts? What changes do we need to make to continue to be relevant for River Hill residents? How can we ensure that the Village of River Hill remains a vibrant community? We encourage River Hill residents to share your thoughts and ideas with the RHBOD and staff, participate in the programs that the Association offers, and help us to define the future for our community.

View the River Hill Community Association FY19 Operating Budget here: FY19 Budget

The Association’s fiscal year runs May 1 – April 30 and the Board of Directors approved the FY19 operating budget on April 23. The table above summarizes this budget and includes actual income and expenses for FY18. It should be noted that special event expenditures in FY19 are driving the increase in FY18 assets and the loss projected in FY19. This is due to the carryover of $7,344 in grant funds awarded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust. The Association’s Watershed Advisory Committee will use these funds in FY19 to construct a rain garden adjacent to the Meeting Room. When these grant funds are taken into account, the Association ended FY18 with $62,356 in cash reserves (savings) which is a 3.6% increase over FY17.

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