Association Works to Enhance Quality of Life for Residents

River Hill Community Association
May 1, 2013 to April 30, 2014
FY14 Annual Report

The River Hill Community Association’s (RHCA or Association) Board of Directors (RHBOD or Board) is responsible for overseeing the Association’s  operations, establishing Association policies and procedures, addressing the needs of the community, and advocating on behalf of residents. In Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14), Kenny Kan served as RHBOD Chairperson, assisted by Vice Chair Liyan Zhang. The other members of the RHBOD were Melissa Bradshaw,
Kathy Chavers, Jenny Chu, Dengfeng Liu, and Dipper Wettstein. Michael Cornell completed the first year of his fourth term as the community’s Columbia Council Representative ex officio RHBOD member. In September 2013 Tiffany Kan began serving her second one-year term as a Student Member on the Board. To fulfill its purpose, the RHBOD was supported by the following volunteer groups:
• Block Captains
• Architectural Committee (AC)
• Resident Architectural Committee (RAC)
• Master Plan Committee (MPC)
• River Hill Garden Center Committee
• Simpson Oaks Advisory Committee
• Teen Advisory Committee
• Watershed Advisory Committee

The following RHCA staff members worked on behalf of the community: Susan Smith (Village Manager), Eva Lambright (Covenant Advisor), Donna Bruhn (Facilities Coordinator), Maureen Cogan (Communications and Events Coordinator), Eudene Rossi (Administrative Assistant) and the following Facility Assistants: Sharyn Eirich, Emily Hogenson, LaTonya Long, Elaine Sheridan, and Teressa Spencer.

The Year in Review

Traffic and Safety
In FY14, the Association continued to advocate on behalf of residents regarding traffic and safety issues. The Association coordinated with the County Police Department to address vehicle speeding, crime prevention, destruction of property, and other issues affecting the overall quality of life within the Village by:
• Providing Block Party Grants for neighborhood National Night Out gatherings.
• Expanding the Neighborhood Watch Program by holding a Block Captain Training Session and providing one-on-one training for new Captains.
• Coordinating with the Association’s Police Department Liaison Officer regarding crime in the community and disseminating important information to residents.
• Requesting traffic enforcement in critical areas.

The Association continued to advocate for improved vehicular, pedestrian, and bike accessibility in the community. The RHBOD met with a representative from the County’s Department of Planning and Zoning to learn of plans for the addition of a bicycle lane along portions of Guilford Road. The Association repeatedly testified in support of improved pedestrian and bike accessibility when commenting on development projects affecting the community.

Open Space and the Environment
The Village of River Hill includes 14.25 miles of pathway and 24 tot lots that have been installed and are maintained by CA. The RHBOD supported CA’s effort to plant American Chestnut tree seeds in the open space in Pointers Run. Boy Scout Troop 618, which is chartered by the Association, participated in this project. The Association’s Watershed Advisory Committee (WAC) continued to enhance the well-being of the community by addressing issues related to storm water runoff, erosion, and watershed quality in and around the Village. The current members of the Committee are: Sari Chapman, Kathy Chavers, Bruce Eberle, Elisabeth Hoffman, Lauren Marcus, and Dipper Wettstein. Based on the WAC’s recommendation, the RHBOD requested that CA install pet waste stations in strategic locations in River Hill’s open space. The WAC expanded efforts to inform residents on ways to improve water quality by providing a monthly “Tip of the Month” column in The Villager, maintaining a web page on the Association’s website, and establishing a WAC Facebook page. The Committee has been working on a variety of projects that include identifying areas for rain gardens, establishing a program to involve and educate youth, and planning a storm drain painting project to increase public awareness.

Covenant Enforcement
Enforcement of the Village Covenants on residential properties is one of the Association’s prime responsibilities. This responsibility typically has three main aspects: the architectural and in-home business review process, the letter of compliance process, and complaints. The Association’s Architectural Committee (AC) is the decision-making authority for architectural matters. The Resident Architectural Committee (RAC) assists and advises the AC by conducting site visits for properties where exterior changes and in-home businesses are proposed and by providing recommendations regarding approval. Eva Lambright, the Association’s Covenant Advisor, provides administrative support to the AC and RAC and works with residents to ensure compliance with the Covenants. In River Hill, the Howard Hughes Corporation retains architectural control for all commercial properties.

In FY14, the Association initiated a new program—the Property Standards Evaluation (PSE) program. Historically, the Association has relied solely on  complaints from residents to trigger property inspections when there are maintenance and other covenant-related issues. With the downturn in the economy and some homes approaching the 25 year mark, the RHBOD believed the community would benefit from additional steps to improve curb appeal in  residential areas. Therefore, in 2012, during the development of CA’s FY13 and Conditional FY14 budgets, the Association applied for and received funding to implement a PSE program. The funds were awarded for FY14 and RHCA formally kicked off the program in August 2013. The program goals are to evaluate
the maintenance of all residential properties in a consistent manner, enhance the general aesthetics of the Village, and educate homeowners on the covenants and their maintenance responsibilities. RHCA’s program is modeled on similar programs that have been successful in other Columbia villages. River Hill’s program will end in early FY15 with a final report to be presented to the RHBOD. The Association appreciates all the effort that property owners have put in to sprucing up their properties. There has been a noticeable improvement in curb appeal. Other positives that have come out of the project have been the identification of maintenance issues in the County rights-of-way, utility box problems, and open space issues. These ancillary concerns are being referred to the responsible parties to be addressed.

During FY14, the following River Hill residents put in many hours on behalf of the Association: Karen Jespersen (AC), Mohammad Saleem (AC), Karen Smith (AC), Takashi Komatsu (RAC), Illona Mallon (RAC), and Peter Robinson (RAC). The Committees reviewed 193 exterior alterations and in-home business applications in FY14. This represents a 43% increase over the prior fiscal year. The AC is responsible for hearing and making decisions on all appeal requests. There was one appeal hearing in FY14 which is testament to the work the committees do to balance the needs and wants of the residents with the Covenants and Architectural Guidelines. 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 Association and CA.

To aid in maintaining property values and the aesthetics of the community, one method used is to encourage properties to be compliant with the Covenants when homes transfer ownership. On behalf of the AC, Ms. Lambright conducts Letter of Compliance inspections, coordinates with the RAC and AC as needed,
and communicates with the homeowner or realtor to cure compliance related issues. In FY14, the Association received 111 requests for Letter of Compliance inspections. This was a 58% increase over the prior year and indicative of the improving real estate market overall and the strong market in the Village. Of the
111 properties inspected, 35 were non-compliant and had to be re-inspected to receive a Letter of Compliance. Only one property in the Village was sold while in non-compliance status.

The Association processed 112 complaints during FY14, a 15% reduction from FY13. Ms. Lambright is responsible for following through on all covenant-related complaints on residential properties. Non-residential complaints are referred by Association staff to the appropriate departments within Howard County Government, CA, Kimco Realty (the owners of the Village Center) or the State Highway Administration. From time to time, the Association incurs costs for legal fees associated with the operation of the Association and covenant enforcement. When a property owner does not resolve a covenant violation, the Association has the ability to 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 FY14, no new properties were referred by the Association to CA for further action. At the end of FY14, there were 2 active cases with the CA’s Architectural Resource Committee (ARC).

Development Issues
During FY14, the Association’s Master Plan Committee (MPC) finalized the River Hill Village Center Master Plan and the document was approved by the  RHBOD in December 2013. Robert Runser served as committee Chairperson and was assisted by Jim Burnett, Jacqueline Easely, Trevor Greene, and Olivia Vaught. In addition to their efforts pertaining to the Village Center Master Plan, the committee has provided critical input on development projects along Route 108.

The Association continued to advocate on behalf of the community on these development/re-development issues:
• The RHBOD advocated for a comprehensive analysis of the Route 108 corridor in Clarksville/River Hill that would address traffic-related issues and improve the streetscape and pedestrian and bicycle accessibility. In response to these efforts, the County’s Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ)
began a Design Guidelines Initiative for the section of Route 108 from Trotter Road to Guilford Road.
• The RHBOD provided testimony during the County’s Comprehensive Zoning process.
• The RHBOD met with representatives from Greenstone Ventures to discuss plans for the Clarksville Commons (the former Gateway School site) mixed use development. The RHBOD testified on the developer’s request for a setback variance.
• The RHBOD established two ad-hoc committees to provide guidance on site-specific development matters—River Hill Garden Center Committee (RHGCC) and the Simpson Oaks Advisory Committee (SOAC).
• The RHGCC, MPC, and RHBOD provided testimony before the Hearing Examiner in opposition to the garden center’s petition for setback variances.
• The SOAC provided testimony before the Planning Board in support of the change in zoning of the 66-acre parcel on Grace Drive from Planned Employment Center (PEC) to Community Enhancement Floating–Residential (CEF-R).
• The RHBOD met with representatives of the owners of 7410, 7440, and 7450 Grace Drive to begin negotiating covenants and restrictions to limit the permitted uses on these properties.
• The Association continued to monitor plans for commercial and residential development in areas near the Village including plans for redeveloping the Luck Stone site and residential infill.

Community Engagement
The Association employs a variety of methods to inform and engage residents and to build a spirit of community within the Village. Maureen Cogan, the Association’s Communications and Events Coordinator, is responsible for organizing the many special events and informational programs that are offered and ensuring that information is shared with residents in a timely manner. In FY14, the Association continued to use its monthly newsletter, The Villager, the Association’s website www.villageofriverhill.org, email news via Constant Contact, Facebook, and Twitter to communicate with residents. This year, the Association launched a new website, www.ClaretHall.org, and a related Facebook page, Facebook.com/ClaretHallMD, to aid in generating rental revenue
for the Association. In addition to these communication tools, RHCA maintains a variety of information on local events, area non-profits, and community resources for the public at Claret Hall. New resident Welcome Packets, copies of the Columbia Flier, CA Monthly, and other local publications are also available. The Association maintains lists of services offered to Village residents for:
• lawn mowing
• babysitting
• snow shoveling

In FY14, the following residents delivered The Villager community newsletter: Morgan Markwood; Luke and Erin Duncan; Tariq Masood; Riley Ross; Thomas Thompson; Nitesh Parikh; Isabella and Giovanni Romero; Sayyeed Mohammed; Jack Harrison; Andrew and Brien Boulle; Jordan Stull; Sara, Caroline, and Melissa Kleinberger; Carolyn Siil; Trevor Donnelly; Clayborne Chavers; and Robby Windsor.

RHCA is the Chartering Organization for Boy Scout Troop 618. Michael Cornell, River Hill’s Columbia Council Representative and an ex officio RHBOD member, serves as the troop’s Chartering Organization’s Representative. In FY14, troop volunteers supported the Independence Day Parade and the  American Chestnut Tree planting. A number of scouts attended Association meetings to earn merit badges.

The Association aims to involve residents of all ages. The following community programs and events were offered during FY14:
• Block Party Grants
• Cul de Sac Beautification Grants
• Flea Market (June 2013)
• Columbia Home Tour (June 2013—co-sponsored with the Columbia villages)
• Health Fair (June 2013, in conjunction with the Coalition Halting Obesity in Children Everywhere)
• Independence Day Parade (July 2013)
• Prepare for Success School Supply Donation Site (July/August 2013)
• River Hill Pool Party (August 2013)
• Set Your Photos Free program (September 2013)
• Family Bingo (September 2013)
• Village-Wide Yard Sales (September 2013)
• Haunted Hallow’s Eve (October 2013, in conjunction with the River Hill Village Center Merchants and Kimco Realty)
• Volunteer Appreciation (November 2013)
• Teen Outreach Committee Clothing Drive Donation Site (November/December 2013)
• Breakfast with Santa (December 2013)
• Howard County Food Bank Donation Drive (January 2014)
• Family Movie and Blanket Making Night (February 2014)
• Grow It! Eat it! Master Gardener Program (March 2014)
• Teen Blanket Making Afternoon (March 2014)
• Internet Safety Program for Parents Only (April 2014)
• Searching for Spring (March 2014, co-sponsored with the Columbia villages)
• Resident Art Show and Reception (April 2014)
• Village Election Day (April 2014)

Due to weather, the Book Drive planned for January and the Community Clean-up planned for March were cancelled.

The Association has a strong commitment to involving youth in our community and has established a Teen Advisory Committee (TAC) and a Student  Member of the Board Committee. In FY14, the members of the Association’s TAC were: Michael Dai, Pradyun Dixit, Arienne Guiv, Ali Hovet, Karen Ni, Madison Sage, Nicole Young, Stacy Young, and Jennifer Zhang. These enthusiastic members of our community worked with Tiffany Kan, Student Member of the Board, and staff to plan and execute activities for the annual Halloween event, the Health Fair, and Breakfast with Santa. They also organized the Family Movie Night and Blanket Making events, which resulted in the donation of 50 blankets to Project Linus and Care Wear, and created a float for the annual Independence Day parade. As a part of their efforts, these teens were instrumental in arranging for many teen volunteers who were essential to making RHCA events a success. As a result, even more teens have had an opportunity to contribute to the broader community, engage with residents of all ages, and learn about RHCA.

Association Administration
Susan Smith, the River Hill Village Manager, is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Association and the management of Claret Hall and The Meeting Room. Ms. Smith serves as an ex officio member of the RHBOD and Secretary and Treasurer of the organization. Ms. Smith’s responsibilities  include, but are not limited to, personnel matters, financial reporting, advocating on behalf of residents, administering the community’s Neighborhood Watch Program, serving as editor of The Villager, and representing the Association with elected officials, numerous departments within the County government, CA, the Columbia villages, and a variety of local organizations and businesses. Two sub-committees of the Board help to streamline administrative operations and
address complex legal concerns (as needed): a Special Litigation Committee and the Village Manager Oversight Committee.

Facility Management
The Association generates revenue to help fund programs and services by renting space at Claret Hall and The Meeting Room. Donna Bruhn, the  Association’s Facility Coordinator, is responsible for administering all facility rentals and ensuring that the facilities are maintained and updated as needed. Both buildings continued to be well utilized by the community for a variety of social and business rentals. During the 2013-2014 school year, while their permanent location in the village of Harper’s Choice was undergoing renovation, the Longfellow Nursery School was housed at the Meeting Room. Easy Method Driving School continues to offer year-round driver education classes at The Meeting Room. The River of Life Christian Community and the Church of God continue to use Claret Hall for their services and programs. The following class programs were offered at Claret Hall: Music Together, Qi Gong, Tien Shan Kung Fu, and Zumba.

The facilities are used by the Association for a variety of community meetings and free usage of space was given in FY14 to the following organizations: the Pointers Run Piranhas Swim Team, the Pheasant Ridge Rapids Swim Team, CA, Girl Scout Troop 67, and Boy Scout Troop 618.

Columbia-Wide Issues
The Association continued to provide input on issues affecting all of Columbia.
• The Association, in conjunction with the other village community associations, advocated with the Maryland General Assembly to have the village associations excluded from the Maryland Common Ownership Community Managers Act.
• The Association contributed to the Village Center Market Analysis effort undertaken by CA, DPZ, and the County’s Economic Development Authority.

What Lies Ahead
The Association will continue to be very involved in zoning and development issues that have the potential to impact the community. We encourage more residents to become engaged and make a difference, whether by volunteering to help with an event, raising issues of importance during the Resident Speak Out portion of each Village Board meeting, or by contacting the Association’s office. Meanwhile, the RHBOD and staff will continue to respond
to your concerns, advocate on behalf of the community, and work with CA and others to enhance the quality of life for residents.

—Approved by the River Hill Board of Directors: July 14, 2014

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