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Columbia Association Working to Protect Open Space From Property Encroachments

Columbia Association (CA) is taking additional steps to preserve and maintain its nearly 3,600 acres of open space, protecting the community’s signature natural areas from encroachments. Under Howard County regulations, at least 36 percent of land under New Town Zoning must be maintained as credited open space for the betterment of the Columbia community. Encroachments — structures or landscaping that cross property boundaries without permission — are not allowed on credited open space. Until this year, encroachments that negatively affected CA’s preservation of its open space were handled on a complaint-driven basis. Recent advances in technology, however, have allowed Columbia Association to proactively locate and manage encroachments in a more equitable manner. CA staff review publicly available aerial imagery for potential encroachments onto CA property from another adjacent property. Staff and professional surveyors will then visit sites to conduct an inspection and confirm whether there is an encroachment. In some cases, property owners will be required to remove the encroachment immediately and restore the land to its original condition. In other cases, property owners will be allowed to delay removing the encroachment until their property changes hands or the condition of the encroachment deteriorates. Columbia Association is also working with the 10 village community associations to help prevent encroachments from occurring. Property owners who apply to their village for property alterations have their applications reviewed for compliance with the village’s architectural covenants. Village staff will now notify Columbia Association about proposed alterations and include language related to property boundary compliance in the architectural compliance process. CA will also offer discounted boundary surveys to Columbia residents where lots meet CA open space parcels. In addition, going forward CA will begin installing witness posts — approximately four-foot fiberglass poles that help identify nearby property markers as CA open space lots are surveyed. For more information, please contact CA’s Department of Open Space and Facility Services at or 410-312-6330.

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