Neighborhood Thrives in 25th Year: Annual Report, May 1, 2016 – April 30, 2017

 The River Hill Community Association celebrated a milestone during Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) when the neighborhood celebrated its 25th year on August 13, 2016. Although on the brink of tremendous change, Clarksville was still a semi-rural farming community in 1991. Woods, a game farm, and nursery were soon to be transformed into the Village of River Hill – a residential community of 2,096 homes, 6,752 residents (2010 census data), assorted amenities, and a commercial center. In 1991, the Board of Directors (RHBOD) responsible for running the Association was originally made up of representatives from Howard Research and Development, Columbia’s developer, and the Columbia Association. Today, the RHBOD is representative of the community’s residents and a steadily growing number of village residents are actively involved with the Association in a variety of volunteer capacities.

During FY17, Michael Cornell served as RHBOD Chairperson, assisted by Vice Chair Richard Thomas. Also serving on the RHBOD were: Robert Choi, Harjeet Singh Jandu, Mavourene Robinson, Jason Zagnit, and Liyan Zhang. Chao Wu completed the 2nd year of his term as the community’s Columbia Council Representative and ex officio RHBOD member. Jennifer Zhang served a second year as the Student Member on the Board. Day-to-day operations of the Association are handled by a paid staff.

Informing & 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 FY17, the carriers were: Andrew Boullé, Brien Boullé, 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, Sara Sophia Masood, Sayyeed Mohammed, Caroline Siil, and Robby Windsor;

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

•Constant Contact emails (sign up to receive the Association’s email updates by clicking on the link on the website homepage or text CLARETHALL to 22828); and
•Twitter: River Hill Community Assn @RHCAClarksville.
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 FY17, advertising revenue from The Villager declined by 5% when compared to FY16. The Villager also struggled for brand recognition. The Clarksville Neighbors and Living at the Hill advertising publications, which entered the local market in recent years, have confused both residents and advertisers. These publications have no connection to the Association. The revenue these magazines generate does not support Association operations or programs and services provided to River Hill residents.
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, Association Resale Packages, new resident Welcome Packets, copies of the Columbia Flier, CA Monthly, and more. The Association maintains service provider lists for: lawn mowing, babysitting, and snow shoveling.
The Association has 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. This year the TAC organized the very successful Claret Hall Cook-off which raised donations for the Howard County Food Bank. 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 chaired the TAC in FY17. The members of the TAC were: Yamini Ananth, Brien Boullé, Emily Chi, Amber Deng, Tobias Eegholm, Megan Rabe, Cindy Tian, Isabelle Zhan, and Andrew Zhang. 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)
•Pet-A-Palooza (May 2016)
•Flea Market (June 2016)
•How to Combat Mosquitos Workshop (June 2016)
•Coupon Clipping to benefit Military Families (June & July 2016)
•Independence Day Parade (July 2016)
•Prepare for Success School Supply Donation Site (July/August 2016)
•River Hill Pool Party (August 2016)
•River Hill 25th Birthday Celebration (September 2016)
•Health Fair (September 2016, in conjunction with the Coalition Halting Obesity in Children Everywhere)
•Neighborhood Yard Sales (September 2016)
•Shredding Event (October 2016)
•CA’s Teen Outreach Committee Toiletries Drive Donation Site (October/November 2016)
•Haunted Hallows Eve (October 2016, in conjunction with the River Hill Village Center Merchants and Kimco Realty)
•Volunteer Appreciation (November 2016)
•Breakfast with Santa (December 2016)
•River Hill Student Essay Contest (January 2017)
•Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 2017)
•School’s Out Bingo (February 2017)
•Master Gardener Seminars: Herb Gardening (January 2017) Pruning (February 2017), Native Plants (March 2017), Get Your Garden Ready for Spring (April 2017)
•Stream Clean-up Day (March 2017)
•Electronics Recycling (March 2017)
•River Hill History Presentation in Celebration of 25 Years (March 2017, in conjunction with the Columbia Archives)
•Columbia-Wide Searching for Spring Event (March 2017)
•Claret Hall Cook-Off (March 2017)
•Village Election Day (April 2017)
•Gallery of River Hill History & Memorabilia (April 2017)
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. River Hill’s Watershed Advisory Committee (WAC) continues to be very active. Members are: Lauren Marcus (Chair), Bruce Eberle, Elisabeth Hoffman, Sari Chapman, Simone Smith, and Paul Lin (Student Representative). John McCoy, CA’s Watershed Manager, provides guidance to the Committee. In FY17, the WAC continued to focus on the environment, storm water runoff, erosion, and watershed quality in and around the village. The committee ran the annual Community Clean-up, offered E-Cycling to the community, and participated in the Independence Day Parade, Health Fair, Haunted Hallows Eve, and Explore River Hill on Foot events. Committee members worked with students at River Hill High School and Clarksville Middle School to install trees and native plants and conducted community “pull and plants” in the open space. At the end of FY17, the WAC was awarded a $7,820 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust. These grant funds will be used in FY18 to create a rain garden demonstration site in the village. Throughout the year, the WAC keeps the community informed about ways to improve the watershed via the “Tip of the Month” column in The Villager, WAC website www.villageofriverhill.org/watershed, and WAC Facebook page www.facebook.com/WatershedCommittee.
During the last year, the County undertook several large capital projects in the open space. Repairs and improvements to stormwater management facilities were made in the areas of Velvet Path, Golden Star Place, and Fairest Dream Lane. The County also conducted stormwater facility maintenance such as the work performed behind Wild Orange Gate and Hidden Waters Way.
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 FY17, the following River Hill residents put in many hours on behalf 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), Lacey Cohen (RAC Chair), Thomas D. Johnson (RAC), Gary Sauers (RAC), S. Jennifer Zhai (RAC). The RAC and AC reviewed 197 exterior alterations and in-home business applications in FY17. This represents a 0.5% increase from the number of applications reviewed in FY16. The AC is responsible for hearing and making decisions on all appeal requests. There was 1 appeal hearing in FY17. 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. To aid in maintaining property values and the aesthetics of the community, one goal is to have properties in compliance with the Covenants when homes go up for sale prior to transferring ownership. 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 124 requests for letter of compliance inspections in FY17, a 10% increase in the number of requests over FY16. Of these properties, 39 were non-compliant on the first inspection and had to be reinspected to receive a letter of compliance. No properties were sold in noncompliance. One property sold with a contingent letter of compliance and has since been made compliant. The Association processed 112 complaints during FY17, a 60% 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 FY17, no properties were referred by the Association to CA for further action. At the end of FY17 there were 2 active cases with the CA’s Architectural Resource Committee (ARC). These cases are expected to be closed shortly. From time to time, the Association incurs costs for legal fees associated with the operation of the Association and covenant enforcement.
Development Matters
Development-related matters continue to be a focus for the community. The Association’s Development Advisory Committee (DAC) monitored and reviewed development plans, attended meetings, and advised the RHBOD on a variety of matters. Harjeet Singh Jandu, Will McCullough, Tony Miceli, Jack Sacchetti, Mavourene Robinson (Chair), Cleveland Wilson, and Julie Wilson served on the DAC.
During FY17, the Association:
•Continued to monitor development plans for properties along Clarksville Pike and near the village;
•Testified before the Zoning Board regarding changes to the plans for the Simpson Oaks residential development;
•Provided feedback to the developer of the River Hill Square (former River Hill Garden Center property) project;
•Provided written input to the County’s Design Advisory Panel regarding the River Hill Square project;
•Advocated on behalf of residents to relocate a cell tower proposed on WR Grace property; and
•Submitted written input to the County regarding transportation priorities for FY18.
Facility Management
Under an agreement with CA, the Association manages Claret Hall and the Meeting Room. 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 FY17, free usage of space was given to the following organizations: Pointers Run Piranhas Swim Team, Pheasant Ridge Rapids Swim Team, CA Aquatics, Girl Scout Troop 10318, and Boy Scout Troop 618. 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/ClaretHallMD. During FY17, both buildings continued to be well utilized. Revenue from social, business, and class rentals increased 20% 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: Adult Ballroom Dance, Chinese Wushu, Music Together, Tien Shan Kung Fu, Triathlean, Yoga, and Zumba. The Church of God and the Church of Christ leased space at Claret Hall for services and programs. The Association’s inability to secure a long-term tenant at the Meeting Room as anticipated and budgeted, did negatively impact the Association’s total lease and revenue income which in turn constrained some operating and capital expenditures.
What Lies Ahead
We know that there will be more residential and commercial growth in the Clarksville/River Hill area in the coming years. As we move forward, enhancing the quality of life for River Hill residents will continue to be the Association’s priority.
Approved by the River Hill Board of Directors: July 17, 2017
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