Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Covenants?
The Covenants are a set of legal documents which are part of your deed of ownership and “run with the land,” i.e., transfer to future owners. The Covenants assure minimum standards for land use, architectural design, and property maintenance. The Covenants allow for the operation of the Town Center Community Association, Town Center Architectural Committee, and the Architectural Review Process (Section 7.01). You should have received these documents at settlement when you purchased your home, or from your landlord. Similar covenants exist for all of the other Columbia villages. Copies of the Covenants may be obtained from the Village office or the Columbia Association.
Why do we have Architectural Guidelines?
The Covenants empower the Town Center Architectural Committee to establish criteria for architectural changes and property maintenance through Architectural Guidelines (Section 7.05). These Guidelines are designed to prevent excesses or abuses, while allowing individuals flexibility in property use. Based upon the policies and previous decisions of the Architectural Committee, the Guidelines will tell you what is most likely to be approved in typical circumstances and also give you important information on how to prepare your application.
What is the Town Center Architectural Committee (TCAC)?
The Town Center Architectural Committee (TCAC) is responsible for setting rules and procedures for architectural control, for the review and final approval of all exterior alterations to existing property, and for new construction. The TCAC is composed of village resident volunteers, with the majority being appointed by the Columbia Association and the minority by the Village Board. They are the final appeal body for all architectural decisions in the Village.
How does the Architectural Review Process work?
Applications are received at the Village office, processed and forwarded for review by the TCAC. Guidelines in effect at the time of the application are used to evaluate all proposed changes, and applications conforming to the Guidelines will be most readily approved. Special circumstances regarding your property may allow the approval of an application which might be denied at another location, or the denial of one which might be approved elsewhere. The approval of the Architectural Committee of any applications for any work done or proposed or in connection with any other matter requiring the approval and consent of the Architectural Committee shall not be deemed to constitute a waiver of any right to withhold approval or consent as to any similar proposals, applications, or matters subsequently or additionally submitted for approval or consent. The fact that a plan similar to yours has been approved for use at another location does not mean that it is automatically approved for you. The entire review process usually takes at most 3 to 4 weeks. The Village employs a Covenant Advisor to assist in preparation and filing of exterior alteration and in-home business applications, to receive inquiries and complaints, and to carry out other duties associated with Covenant enforcement.
What if I don’t wait for approval?
Proceeding with an application or in-home business prior to obtaining written approval is done at your own risk and puts your property in violation of the Covenants (Section 7.06). You could then face the cost of removing or modifying the alteration to comply with the TCAC’s decision. In considering applications, the Committee will not be influenced for or against the application if work is completed prior to approval. However, for the reasons stated above, residents are strongly urged not to undertake construction in advance.
What if I have a complaint?
Complaints, which remain anonymous, should be brought to the attention of the Covenant Advisor who will investigate the situation. If a violation exists, the property owner is notified and is given a specific time to correct the violation either by removal, by submission of an acceptable application, or by repair in the case of a maintenance problem. Most problems are resolved at this stage. However, if no action is taken to correct the violation, a formal notice is sent to the owner stating that legal remedies may be initiated. If the problem still is not corrected by the owner, the TCAC may then take further action itself or may submit the violation to the Columbia Association Architectural Resource Committee (ARC) which may recommend that the Columbia Association and the Village take further measures, including legal action, to enforce the Covenants.
What is a Certificate of Compliance?
A Certificate of Compliance is a document that certifies that all original builder construction is completed according to approved plans. An updated Letter of Compliance is issued only at the request of the owner (example: at resale) and certifies that all subsequent alterations have been constructed according to terms of approval by the Architectural Committee and comply with the Covenants. An updated Certificate of Compliance will not be issued if a violation exists and this may delay property resale. All buyers should request that they be provided with a Letter of Compliance at settlement.
Where do I Call?
Town Center Community Association
Howard County Dept. of Inspections, Licenses & Permits
Columbia Association Land Management