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Inside the Election of the Hickory Ridge Village Board

Full Disclosure: I am a current board member of the Hickory Ridge Village Board, but I am not running for re-election. There are 12 candidates running to serve a one-year term on the 5 member Village Board of the Hickory Ridge Community Association (HRCA). 12 people, including 4 incumbents. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only village in Columbia with a contested village board race this spring. This is awesome! Go Hickory Ridge! Here are the candidates (incumbents listed first in bold):

  • Janssen Evelyn

  • Fred Johnston

  • Gregg Schwind

  • Skye Anderson

  • William Inglis

  • Debra McPherson

  • Kristine Amari

  • Lisa Dean

  • Tradd Ritchey

  • Laura All

  • Paul Armstrong

  • Jesse Harvey

A Hickory Ridge Candidate forum will be held on Tuesday April 6, at 7 PM, that will provide an opportunity for residents to hear more from these candidates (as well as the two candidates running for Columbia Council Rep, Jessamine Duvall and Tradd Ritchey).


First, let me emphasis how amazing I think it is that there is so much interest amongst Hickory Ridge residents to serve on our Village Board. Volunteering on a village board is a fulfilling and rewarding use of time, and you can truly make a difference in our neighborhood, so it is great to see so many candidates step forward willing to commit their time to bettering our community.


While I think it is fantastic to see so much new faces, I do want to take a moment to speak to the qualifications of the four incumbents seeking reelection that I have had the privilege of serving with this past year. Janssen Evelyn, Fred Johnston, Gregg Schwind, and Skye Anderson are all dedicated community leaders who pride themselves on carefully and thoughtfully approaching issues brought to the board, listening to residents concerns, and striving to find common ground in advocating for the interests of residents in Hickory Ridge. While we don't always agree on all issues, our diversity of thought, collaborative solution-oriented mindset, dedication to community service, and unique skillsets and backgrounds have resulted in an incredibly strong Hickory Ridge Village Board that have resulted in many notable accomplishments over the past year.


These include:

  • Bike and Pedestrian Infrastructure: Strongly supported new safe, improved low-stress pedestrian and cycling connections in Hickory Ridge on Cedar Lane and the Hickory Ridge Road & Broken Land Parkway intersection by providing input into the Hickory Ridge Road Bike Corridor Study

  • Pools: Advocated for opening the Clary's Forest's Forest Pool. Clary's Forest is one of 8 outdoor pools that will not open this summer. It has (A) 9th highest overall attendance out of all 23 pools, (B) the highest attendance out of all pools that will remain closed this summer, and (C) higher attendance than 7 pools that will be opened. The Hickory Ridge Village Board met with residents, CA Aquatics Director Marty Oltmann, and sent a letter on behalf of the Board and residents to CA urging them to keep this pool open. We even offered, as a partner with CA in providing services to our residents, to utilize our own cash reserves to help support its reopening. This offer was not accepted by CA and the Clary's Forest pool, along with 7 others in Columbia, will remain closed for the second summer in a row.

  • Tot Lots: Successfully had CA remove a video surveillance camera from a Hickory Ridge Tot Lot that they were using as part of a study to evaluate tot-lot usage. The Village Board has worked with residents to identify maintenance needs and potential tot lot improvements.

  • Financials: Managed the HRVA financial and programmatic challenges brought on by the pandemic, which included a $130,000 decrease in annual rental revenue from the Hawthorn Center. Our prudent financial management has us on target to close FY22 in the black, setting up the Association to be in strong financial position to resume community events and activities moving forward.

  • Hawthorne Center: Prepared for safely reopening the Hawthorn Center for rental and community events in full compliance with COVID-safe protocols.

  • Columbia Community Care Donations: Hosted two drive-through donation drives to benefit Columbia Community Care that resulted in over 15 carloads of food, toiletries, and other household items being donated.

  • Village Manager: Conducted interviews and hired a new Village Manager

  • Community Engagement: Hosted bi-monthly virtual board meetings, which included informational presentations and resident Q&A with notable community organizations such as Howard County Police, Howard County Department of Transit BIKE HOWARD initiative, Community Ecology Institution, Brightview Senior Living Center, Patuxent Commons, Inner Arbor Trust on Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods, Howard County Community College, CA Department of Aquatics, and others.


The Hickory Ridge Village Center (HRVC) Redevelopment

While I'm looking forward to hearing more from the candidates next week, based on candidate statements submitted, at least a handful of the challengers seem to be single-issue candidates opposed to the HRVC redevelopment.

See my February 4, 2020 article: "The story behind the Hickory Ridge Village Center redevelopment" for additional background.

It is odd that these challengers are running in opposition to the village center now because after an incredibly lengthy process, the Howard County Zoning Board has finally concluded hearing the case to redevelop the HRVC on March 24, 2021. The Zoning Board is now in deliberations and a decision on whether or not the redevelopment plan will be approved is imminent. The opportunity for HRCA to provide feedback to the zoning board is over. The ship has sailed. The case is closed. The decision is pending.


The HRCA provided testimony to the Zoning Board, via an addendum to the community response statement in early 2020, prior to the current Hickory Ridge Board being elected. In this testimony and the amended CRS, the HRCA indicated support for the redevelopment plan only if certain requirements were met. These requirements include: reducing the number of apartment units as to not overwhelm other uses at the Center, limiting the height of the apartment building, ensuring parking meets applicable parking regulations, verification of the accuracy of a traffic study, and the implementation of pedestrian safety and traffic calming measures. This addended CSR offers a compromise that best reflects the desires of the entire community, including those Hickory Ridge residents in favor of the redevelopment proposal while incorporating the concerns from Hickory Ridge residents who took issue with Kimco's original proposal. Our current board has stood behind the testimony that our predecessors on the Board provided. We have not otherwise provided any additional input and have focused our efforts on the aforementioned accomplishments.


The HRVC finds itself at a crossroads. Kimco Realty has put forward a plan to invest nearly $80 million into redeveloping the HRVC with new retail spaces, a new public green, and an apartment building. As it stands now, the HRVC already has many empty retail spaces and the center risks further decline if it is not modernized as it faces increased competition in a changing retail environment. Rouse envisioned the village center as a central part of his vision for Columbia, and I believe that Columbia village centers need to adapt to changing market conditions in order for them to remain at the center of civic life. We can breathe new life into our village center with a revitalized plan that closely resembles the newly renovated community hub that is the Wilde Lake Village Center, which smartly combines retail and residential. A modernized concept will enable the Hickory Ridge Village Center to thrive for decades to come by providing new public spaces for hosting community events and helping to attract new neighborhood serving retail tenants that could include coffee shops, restaurants and/or bars alongside existing long-standing favorites, whose businesses would all benefit from having new residents living on site.

I'm confident that if re-elected; Janssen, Fred, Gregg and Skye will remain focused on opportunities that the HRCA could pursue to enhance quality of life for all Hickory Ridge residents. I fear that some of the challenging candidates will attempt to monopolize the community association's time and money in pursuing desperate, long-shot bids to stop the village center redevelopment at all costs should the Zoning Board rule in favor of Kimco’s petition.

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15 Comments


Alison Hickman
Alison Hickman
Apr 03, 2021

Lisa, thanks for posting and being so transparent about your platform and five-person slate. Respectfully, I am specifically looking for candidates to support that are NOT against the village center renovation and apartments, so this information is helpful to me. Given the digital transformation in retail and increasing competitiveness in the grocery market, it is my belief that the apartments are needed for a vibrant village center. We need a village center board that is forward looking. It's time to move on and I think our village board representation should reflect that. FWIW, I live directly across the intersection from it and am pretty affected by it - from my selfish, economic vantage point - I think it's in m…

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Re "other issues", and other uses for money wasted min lawyer's fees fighting a Lost Cause kind of battle. Imagine:

--if the $50,000 were used to pay swimming pool fees for Hawthorne kids whose families can't afford CA memberships or are just above eligibility line for free access👍

--If the $50,000 were spent on a "Day of Free Sports" where kids interested in becoming better soccer players, basketball players, players of any sort could have small coaching sessions in the adjacent Hawthorne park..

--If the $50,000 were spent on not 1 but 2-3 non-denominational "HolidayCelebration" parts at Hawthorne Center, with snacks & desserts for all ages (our beautiful room holds up to 75-100, as I recall).

-- If Village Board…


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Regarding the poster who said I attended only 50% of Board meetings--that is false.


During my tenure on the 2017 Board, I missed just three regularly scheduled meetings (5/25, 8/21, 12/4)--or 18% of meetings during my shortened term. Current Board member Fred Johnson missed four meetings during his tenure, as did former Board member Latonya Peters. Current Village Board member Gregg Schwind, who was then the CA Board member from Hickory Ridge, did not attend 11 of our 23 Village Board meetings that year.


It is true I resigned my position early. At the time, I was the primary caretaker for my sister-in-law, who was battling terminal ovarian cancer. I moved to Darnestown in Montgomery County to live at he…


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Hey, Jeremy,


Thanks for inviting me to respond to your questions.


Unfortunately, the Village Board’s so-called "compromise" position was ineffective. Kimco did not change their plan to incorporate a single one of the 5 conditions precedent to Village Board (VB) support. Yet your VB still asked the Zoning Board to approve the petition. That's not compromise. That's capitulation by the VB.

I’m curious. Do you have experience as a land use attorney? Because I do. I don't agree with your assessment that success on appeal from the Zoning Board is "highly unlikely." There were many reversible errors that are ripe for appeal. Case law on these errors is highly supportive of appeal.


Regarding your comment suggesting pursuing appeal is “throwing…


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Alison Hickman
Alison Hickman
Apr 05, 2021
Replying to

Blair, I hope you will ignore the loudest, nastiest voices. Most people, even people who disagree with each other, are pretty civil. Overwhelmingly the people I engage with in person on this issue, school redistricting, etc. favor a reasonable, civil, collaborative approach, even with some degree of disagreement. I did start commenting more on social media on this issue for the sole reason of not wanting to let the loudest voices appear to be the only opinion. If you want a second perspective on living here in 2021 Jeremy can also put you in touch with me. Best of luck on your decision - hope to have you in the neighborhood.

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Just another thought re the "unappreciated externalities/side-costs for costs delaying Hickory Ridge VC improvements." No progress, no CA $$ commitment to a park for the Village (hey, does anyone remember this!!)


Even if CA has the $$, it will not/not proceed with Any plans for a park in the CA property next to the parking lot (south), bordered by wetlands, until the VC issue is resolved.


Yeah, drag th hearing process out for years--results by 2024: no park, no stores, nothing but a parking lot and the ongoing, self-centered, loud opposition of a few folk--remember, the REAL NUMBER was only 13% of the entire Village population opposed, not LD's imaginary 89%!!-- with little better to do than shout out…

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You wrote: "The ship has sailed." That's incorrect. The process is FAR from over.


The case is simply at the Zoning Board stage. Once a ZB decision is announced, there will be opportunity for requests for reconsideration and appeals. That's why it's important to elect people, like me, who are opposed to Kimco's plan.


I am part of the 5-person slate of candidates recruited by Village residents to #SaveOurCenter. We are all dedicated to stewarding Jim Rouse's Columbia Concept that puts the village retail center serving residents' daily shopping needs at the heart of our village--and rejects having a high-rise apartment serving Kimco shareholders, overwhelming the retail and community public space purpose of a Village Center, and destroying Jim Rouse’s…


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It is very interesting how you use numbers., Lisa. No one who knows anything about surveys & stats would interpret “89%” of a survey where only 13% of residents responded as”overwhelming majority“.! As you were while on the Village Board, your comments are still self serving, not Village serving.

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