Teen Advisory Committee Invaluable Leadership and Community Engagement Opportunities Available for Neighborhood Teens

By Yamini Ananth, Class of ‘19 Atholton High School and Cindy Tian, Class of ‘19 River Hill High School

Growing up in River Hill, our parents never felt the need to take our families on vacation for the 4th of July—we always packed a blanket and sat outside, watching the parade roll by with our neighbors. We never felt cheated, because we loved watching the parade and, equally important, we got tons of candy with our friends. When we reached high school, we found we could get in- volved with making floats and participating in the parade through the River Hill Community Association’s Teen Advisory Committee (TAC), an opportunity we both immediately took advantage of.

The TAC is a group of River Hill and Atholton students fo- cused on implementing and encouraging teenage participation in community service within the River Hill village. Consisting of ten members, the TAC aims to better community relations by creat- ing and aiding in village events, such as Haunted Hallow’s Eve, Breakfast with Santa, and Searching for Spring. As Co-Chairs of the TAC for the last two years, we have had lead roles in organizing these annual events and in developing a unique TAC-spon- sored event each year.

Each committee member is responsible for attending and actively participating in all TAC meetings and events. They are ex- pected to have an open and creative mind, a lively and respectful attitude, and a passion for service. Throughout the year, the TAC members negotiate with event sponsors, write donation letters, or- ganize youth volunteers, create meeting and event agendas, develop floor plans, and communicate with residents, the village staff, and other students.

There are lots of service organizations out there, but we firmly believe that the TAC brings something unique to the table. For those of us that grew up in the village, there is a real nostalgia to the events that we run, because we are recreating the magic of our childhoods for the next generation of River Hill children. We are also able to bring unique events to the River Hill community while reaching out and aiding people in need. One of the best examples was our Bob Ross Paint Night in 2018, which benefited Arts Every Day, a non-profit that brings fine arts education to underfunded schools in Baltimore County. In March 2019, we ran Coffee, Crafts, and Karaoke, an event that benefited the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in honor of Eric Weatherell, a student from River Hill and one of our peers. Through the TAC, we can address the issues we care about.

This year the TAC also established Teen Talk, a youth voice column right here in The Villager! TAC member and River Hill Senior, Ashley Chen, has been working for several months to bring high quality pieces to the newsletter, covering issues that really matter to the youth of our community, from the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal to River Hill High School’s own viral sensation, Kyle the Weatherman. We truly believe that the TAC is a gem of the River Hill community and a great opportunity for local youth engagement.

Serving on the TAC has helped us direct and channel our enthusiasm towards a good cause: giving back to the community that raised us. As freshmen in high school, we were both over-whelmed by the different opportunities and clubs that were just one interest meeting away. The TAC friend group we made in the summer prior to entering high school acted as an anchoring group of friends, peers, and mentors, who we often turned to for advice on classes, college applications, and time management. Because of the diverse nature of all the members, in addition to the small size of the committee, we created close knit relationships with students from other grades, schools, and social circles. The TAC is a community that neither of us would have found elsewhere, and we are both quite grateful for the support it has provided us.

Besides giving us a great network of friends and community members, serving on the TAC and the Village Board has enabled us, as well as the other members, to grow our confidence and personalities through the interpersonal interactions that come with planning and executing events. Through the years, all the TAC members have contacted numerous community businesses for donations, managed youth volunteers, organized events, and interacted with diverse groups of residents. They have become exceptional leaders and followers and have applied their skills gained from serving on the TAC to many other aspects of their lives; the soft skills that they learn from giving back directly to their own community are unparalleled.

The association is currently accepting applications for TAC membership! Students must be in 9-12th grade in the fall of 2019 to be eligible. Applications are available here or at Claret Hall and are due by May 31, 2019.

We strongly encourage all parents to speak with their rising high school student(s) about applying to be a part of TAC, as the experience will help them grow into more impactful, civically engaged citizens. For us, the TAC has been one of the best ways to develop valuable leadership skills while doing fun, meaningful community service and meeting great friends.

The authors of this piece are Yamini Ananth and Cindy Tian, seniors at Atholton and River Hill High School respectively. Cindy joined the TAC in 2015 and Yamini in 2016; both were appointed as Co-Chairs of the Teen Advisory Committee and Student Members of the River Hill Board of Directors in 2017 and have served two terms in this position. To learn more about the TAC, visit them on Instagram @riverhilltac.

Reporting Neighborhood Covenant Concerns is a Complaint Driven Process

Adherence to the covenants and regular maintenance is an ongoing responsibility of all property owners in the Village of River Hill. One of the “joys” of being a homeowner is putting effort into the continual care that is necessary to keep a property looking its best. Following months of above average precipitation in the area, the neighborhood is showing signs of much-needed upkeep and care. Unkempt landscaping, lawns that haven’t yet been mowed for the first time this season, dead trees and shrubs in yards, broken fences, heavily soiled siding, filthy walkways and driveways – all of these are part of a long list of items that need to be addressed on many properties throughout the village.

Do you have a situation on a neighboring property or on your street that is problematic because there are obvious covenant violations? The village employs a full-time Covenant Advisor to assist residents with understanding the covenants and provide information about how to achieve compliance for all properties. The Covenant Advisor does not act as the “village police.” The River Hill Community Association operates under a complaint driven system, as this has been found to be the best way to ensure fairness to all homeowners and to keep the community at its best. While many smaller HOAs may be able to “police” their properties, it is impossible to do this, with any consistency, in a large village with over 2000 properties.

Complaints, which remain anonymous, should be brought to the attention of the Covenant Advisor who may investigate to verify if a violation exists. The property owner will be notified and asked to correct the violation either by removal of the offending item or structure, by submission of an acceptable Exterior Alteration Application, or by repairing any maintenance issues. Most problems are resolved at this stage; however, if no action is taken by the homeowner to correct the violation, a formal notice is sent stating that legal action may be initiated.

The enforcement of the Covenants and Architectural Guidelines is not to focus on punishment but to work with owners toward consistent village-wide compliance. Reasonable and sufficient time is allowed for residents to comply.

Many times, an extenuating circumstance can cause a one- time violation. This can be due to lack of knowledge of the Village Covenants and Architectural Guidelines, or temporarily inoperable equipment that is normally needed for property maintenance. We ask that you respectfully communicate the concern or infraction to the property owner first, as any good neighbor would do. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that or you are not sure if it is a violation, you may submit an anonymous complaint to the Covenant Advisor here or call the village office at Claret Hall at 410-531- 1749.

Some complaints are outside the Covenant Advisor’s jurisdiction such as street trees, parking issues, open space maintenance, signage in the County-Right-of-Way (CROW), heaving sidewalks, cluster mailboxes, potholes and street lights. For these types of concerns, here is a handy list to refer to for communicating with the appropriate department.

Who to Call When You Have a Concern or Complaint:

  • For street trees, heaving sidewalks, potholes, trash & recycling service issues, contact See, Click, Fix: https://gov.seeclickfix.com/solutions/howard-county-md. You can report a concern and remain anonymous. You can also call Howard County In- formation Referral at 410-313-3000.
  • For complaints involving parking concerns, vehicles in the CROW, large trucks that impede sight, cars parked around cul-de-sac islands or unhitched trailers parked in the street, contact Howard County Police non-emergency at 410-313-2200.
  • For Open Space concerns, call 410-312-6330 or send an email to Open.Space@ColumbiaAssociation.org.
  • For cluster mailbox issues in the 21029 zip code, call 410-750- 1340. For cluster mailbox issues in the 21044 zip code, call 410-381-4373.
  • For street light outage, visit: https://bge.custhelp.com/app/ODL-LightingOutage.
  • If you smell natural gas, leave the area immediately and call BGE 1-877-778-7798 or 1-800-685-0123.
  • For downed power lines, stay away from the area and call BGE 1-877-778-2222 or 1-800-685-0123.

Board to Fill Open Positions by Appointment

The River Hill Community Association’s Board of Directors (RHBOD) will maintain the size of the board at seven members and will fill the two remaining seats by appointment. Both positions have two-year terms, May 2019 – April 2021. The association is currently accepting letters of interest from residents wanting to serve. The deadline for submittal is May 10 at 5 p.m. Interviews will be conducted during the May 13 RHBOD meeting (rescheduled from May 6). The board is expected to make the appointments that evening. Letters of interest should be sent c/o Susan Smith, Village Manager, at manager@villageofriverhill.org or dropped off at Claret Hall.

RHBOD meetings are typically held one Monday evening each month, except in March and April when there are two meetings. In addition to attending the monthly meetings, each Board Member selects a topic to focus on during the year. The member serves as a subject matter expert and liaison to association staff and the community. Examples of liaison areas are budget and finance, development issues, open space matters, and watershed concerns. These liaison responsibilities may require a member serve on other committees or attend meetings in addition to the regularly scheduled RHBOD meetings.

Are you interested in serving, but still have questions? Please contact a Board Member (contact information here) or the Village Manager at 410-531-1749.

New Bicycle and Pedestrian Amenities Coming to Village

In addition to plans for bicycle and pedestri- an improvements along MD 108 in Clarksville, there are two locations in the Village of River Hill that are expected to receive new amenities. Representatives from Howard County’s Office of Transportation (OOT) will meet with the association’s Board of Directors on May 13 at 7:15 p.m. to provide an update on the plans to add bicycle amenities in the village. Residents are encouraged to attend the meeting to learn more. The county plans to resurface Summer Sunrise Drive and River Run in the late spring/ summer of this year. As part of this resurfacing project, the bicycle-related roadway markings will be added.

The OOT shared draft plans for bike lanes and “sharrows” on Summer Sunrise Drive and River Run in the Pointers Run neighborhood in August 2018. At that time, they requested input from the community. Since then, OOT has reviewed the feedback and made modifications to the design. Changes made include modifications to address the need to conserve space for overflow outdoor pool parking along Summer Sunrise Drive during the summer months. These bicycle-related improvements are consistent with BikeHoward (2016), the county’s bicycle master plan. To view BikeHoward visit: www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/ County-Administration/Transportation.

Chesapeake Realty Partners’ plans for the Cedar Creek residential subdivision on Grace Drive have been working their way through the county’s review and approval process. The county has required the developer to make a pedestrian link to the existing CA pathway that currently ends at the Quiet Night Ride traffic circle. This connection is a condition of plan approval. The plans for this connection were shared with the community at a meeting in November 2018. The River Hill Board of Directors supports the link and in January 2019 requested that the improvements at this entrance into the community maintain or improve upon the existing vegetative buffer between MD 32 and nearby residences.

On April 25, the Columbia Association’s (CA) Board of Directors considered Chesapeake Realty Partners’ request for an open space easement at the Quiet Night Ride/Grace Drive traffic circle. The easement is needed for the developer to connect to the CA pathway, provide a crosswalk to the north side of Grace Drive, and create a bike trail connection to the existing bike lane on Grace Drive. The CA Board has unanimously approved the easement.