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 2016 (FY16), Michael Cornell served as RHBOD Chairperson, assisted by Vice Chair Esti Schabelman. Also serving on the RHBOD were: David Clark, Will McCullough, Mavourene Robinson, Richard Thomas, and Liyan Zhang. Chao Wu completed the first year of his term as the community’s Columbia Council Representative and ex officio RHBOD member. Jennifer Zhang began serving as the Student Member on the Board in September 2015. In FY16, numerous River Hill residents volunteered with the Association at the committee level.
The day-to-day operations of the Association are handled by the following staff members: Susan Smith (Village Manager), Eva Lambright (Covenant Advisor), Donna Bruhn (Facilities Coordinator), Jennifer Lynott (Communications and Events Coordinator), Eudene Rossi (Administrative Assistant) and Facility Assistants: Alison Cameron, LaTonya Long, Gloria Robinson, and Teressa Spencer.
Open Space and the Environment
The Columbia Association (CA) owns and is responsible for maintaining the open space, 14.25 miles of pathway, and 24 tot lots in the Village of River Hill. In FY16, 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 WAC received a $3,600 Watershed Enhancement grant by Howard County’s Bureau of Environmental Service’s which enabled the committee to play a more active role in educating and involving the community on watershed-related matters. The WAC ran the annual Community Clean-up, participated in the River Hill RideAbout, the Independence Day Parade, Health Fair and Haunted Hallow’s Eve events, and had a booth at the County’s Annual GreenFest. They conducted multiple “pull and plants” in the open space, offered informational sessions on rain barrels, invasive plants, and lawn maintenance, and worked with the local schools on watershed-related projects. The WAC uses the following communications tools to reach residents: “Tip of the Month” column in The Villager, WAC website http://villageofriverhill.org/watershed/, and WAC Facebook page www.facebook.com/WatershedCommittee. The River Hill WAC has served as a model and inspired other Columbia village associations to form similar committees.
Enforcement of the Village Covenants on residential properties is one of the Association’s prime responsibilities. This responsibility has three main aspects: the architectural and in-home business review process, the letter of compliance process, and the handling of 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. 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.
During FY16, the following River Hill residents volunteered on the Architectural Committee: Karen Jespersen, Mohammad Saleem, and Karen Smith. Steven Grippando, Takashi Komatsu, Peter Robinson, and Ron Yozwiak volunteered on the RAC. Due to the resignation of members, the RHBOD disbanded the RAC in March 2016. A total of 196 exterior alteration and in-home business applications were reviewed in FY16. This represents a 4.8% decrease in the number of submittals from the prior year. There were no appeal hearings in FY16. The RHBOD wants to re-establish the RAC in FY2017.
To aid in maintaining property values and the aesthetics of the community, the Association encourages residents to request Letters of Compliance prior to the sale and transfer of their property. On behalf of the AC, Ms. Lambright conducts inspections of the home’s exterior and yard, coordinates with the RAC and AC as needed, and communicates with the homeowner or realtor to cure compliance related issues. In FY16, the Association received 113 requests for Letter of Compliance inspections, a 2.2% decrease in the number of requests when compared with FY15. Of the 113 properties inspected, only 1 property was sold in non-compliance status. This property has since been brought into compliance.
The Association processed 70 complaints during FY16, a 60% decrease from FY15. Complaints dropped off as residents increased use of the County’s online Tell HoCo/See Click Fix application to report issues and were referred to the Columbia Association’s open space reporting process. On behalf of the AC, Ms. Lambright is responsible for investigating all covenant-related complaints. 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. The AC 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. 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 FY16, no properties were referred by the Association to CA for further action. At the end of FY16, there was 1 active case with the CA’s Architectural Resource Committee (ARC).
Development-related matters continue to be a focus of the Association. In FY16, the Development Advisory Committee (DAC) was established to monitor and review development plans, attend meetings, produce document(s), and advise the RHBOD on development matters. David Clark, Will McCullough, Tony Miceli, Jack Sacchetti, Cleveland Wilson, and Julie Wilson were appointed to the DAC in December 2015.
During FY16, the Association:
- Supported the Department of Planning and Zoning’s Clarksville Pike Streetscape Plan and Design Guidelines and the associated County legislation.
- Continued to monitor development plans for properties along Clarksville Pike;
- Pursued use restrictions with the developer/owner of 7410 Grace Drive;
- Provided input to Kimco Realty on design criteria for signage in the River Hill Village Center and advocated for “entry” signage to be placed along Clarksville Pike;
- Advocated for a post office in Clarksville; and
- Submitted input to the County regarding transportation priorities for FY17.
Involving the Community
The Association employs a variety of methods to inform and engage residents and to build a spirit of community within the Village. Jennifer Lynott, Communications and Events Coordinator, organizes the many special events and informational programs, coordinates the newsletter, and ensures that information is shared in a timely manner. In FY16, the Association upgraded its website: www.villageofriverhill.org. The new site is more dynamic, colorful, mobile-friendly, and has expanded content.
The Association uses Constant Contact, Facebook (www.Facebook.com/RiverHillCommunityAssociation), and Twitter to communicate electronically with residents. A variety of information is available at Claret Hall: 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 lists of services for: lawn mowing, babysitting, and snow shoveling.
The Villager, the Association’s monthly newsletter is another method used to communicate and strengthen residents’ ties to the community. Not only is it a source of information, the newsletter is delivered door-to-door by community members: Andrew and Brien Boullé; Trevor Donnelly; Erin and Luke Duncan; Hannah and Lucas Gitelman; Sara Jain; Jacob Hamet; Jack Harrison; Joshua and Matt Hernandez; Kenzie, Melissa, and Sarah Kleinberger; Morgan Markwood; Sara Sophia and Tariq Masood; Sayyeed Mohammed; Nitesh Parikh; Caroline Siil; and Robby Windsor. Revenue generated by the advertising covers the newsletter’s delivery, production, and printing costs.
The Association has a strong commitment to involving local youth. River Hill’s Teen Advisory Committee (TAC) is key to making many Association-sponsored events a success. They help to plan and staff events including: Independence Day Parade, Health Fair, Haunted Hallow’s Eve, and Breakfast with Santa. In addition to being involved in these activities themselves, the TAC arranges for many teen volunteers to help. In FY16 the members of the TAC were: Brien Boullé, Tobias Eegholm, John Freal, Arienne Guiv, Negheen Guiv, Raghav Srivastava, Cindy Tian, Isabelle Zhan, and Andrew Zhang. Jennifer Zhang, the Student Member of the RHBOD, chaired the TAC. RHCA continues to be the Chartering Organization for Boy Scout Troop 618. Michael Cornell, a RHBOD member, served as the troop’s Chartering Organization’s Representative.
The Association offered the following programs and events in FY16:
- Block Party Grants
- Cul de Sac Beautification Grants
- Food on the 15th Collection Drive (all year)
- Gold Buying Events (May and June 2015)
- Flea Market (June 2015)
- Independence Day Parade (July 2015)
- Co-hosted the screening of the documentary film Green Fire with the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area (July 2015)
- Prepare for Success School Supply Donation Site (July/August 2015)
- River Hill Pool Party (July 2015)
- Health Fair (September 2015, in conjunction with the Coalition Halting Obesity in Children Everywhere)
- Neighborhood Yard Sales (September 2015)
- Shredding Event (October 2015)
- Haunted Hallow’s Eve (October 2015, in conjunction with the River Hill Village Center Merchants and Kimco Realty)
- Volunteer Appreciation (November 2015)
- Teen Outreach Committee Clothing Drive Donation Site (November/December 2015)
- Breakfast with Santa (December 2015)
- Used Sports Gear Collection Drive Donation Site (December 2015)
- Howard County Food Bank Donation Drive (January 2016)
- Coupon Clipping for Military Families (January/February/April 2016)
- School’s Out “Quick Start” Tennis for Kids (February 2016)
- Columbia-Wide Searching for Spring Event (March 2016)
- Master Gardener Seminars: Deterring Deer (November 2015), Gardening Under Glass (January 2016), Lawn Care (March 2016)
- Columbia Wide Clean-up Day (April 2016)
- Red Cross Blood Drive (April 2016)
- Village Election Day (April 2016)
The Association has a contract with the Columbia Association to manage Claret Hall and the Meeting Room. Donna Bruhn, the Association’s Facility Coordinator, 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 a variety of community meetings and events. Additionally, free usage of space was given in FY16 to the following organizations: Pointers Run Piranhas Swim Team, Pheasant Ridge Rapids Swim Team, CA, Girl Scout Troop 67, Girl Scout Troop 2003, and Boy Scout Troop 618.
By renting space at both buildings, the Association generates revenue to help fund operations, programs and services. The Association maintains an online presence to promote the rental of the facilities including www.ClaretHall.org and www.Facebook.com/ClaretHallMD. During FY16, both buildings continued to be well utilized by the community. Revenue from social, business, and class rentals increased over the prior year. The River of Life Christian Community and the Church of God leased space at Claret Hall for their services and programs. Class programs provided additional rental revenue and an opportunity for members of the community to be active and meet one another: Adult Ballroom Dance, Chinese Wushu, Flow Yoga, Music Together, Qi Gong, Tien Shan Kung Fu, Triathlean, and Zumba. However, the loss of two long-term tenants, negatively impacted the Association’s finances, limiting capital improvements.
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, 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. In FY16, the Association joined with the other Columbia Villages to undertake a staff compensation study and negotiate a new Management Contract with CA. The Association also implemented an electronic calendar and scheduling system to streamline operations. Two sub-committees of the Board help to oversee administrative operations and address complex legal concerns (as needed): a Special Litigation Committee and the Village Manager Oversight Committee.
What Lies Ahead
The Village of River Hill turns 25 on August 11, 2016! It is hard to believe, that Columbia’s youngest village has reached this milestone. Dramatic changes have occurred during this time, a former game farm, fields, wooded areas, and a tree nursery have transformed into a thriving, vibrant community. As we move forward, the Association will continue to make enhancing the quality of life for River Hill residents its priority.
Approved by the River Hill Board of Directors: July 11, 2016