By CATHERINE NEWHOUSE
When nominations opened for the North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association‘s next president, board member Sid Sullivan didn’t miss a beat. “I nominate Pat Fowler,” he said, which was immediately seconded by two other board members who spoke in unison.
Fowler, the only nominee for the position, was elected president at the association’s Tuesday, May 10, meeting. The other two officers elected were Sarah K. Taylor for vice president and Mat Harrison for secretary and treasurer. They also ran unopposed.
No new board members were added to the 12-person board elected on Saturday, May 7. As many as 15 people can serve on the board. The group of 13 people present at the Tuesday, May 10, meeting included board members, former Treasurer Donna Kessell, former President John Clark and property owner Mark Stevenson. Former Acting President Tracy Greever-Rice, who led the association for the past two months after Clark was removed, did not attend.
After the election of president, Fowler said she wanted to build trust among neighbors, keep an eye on rezoning requests and mend relationships with the city, police and other neighborhood associations.
“That’s my intent and I hope you all will hold me accountable to that,” she said.
Fowler, who moved to the North Central neighborhood in July 2009 but had been involved in activities before then, elaborated on her ideas after the meeting.
“My vision is that we become friendlier to the people who live here already, and that we have an array of activities that we participate in, in addition to whatever’s on the agenda on the next City Council meeting,” she said.
Fowler recently came up with the idea to start a neighborhood mural project, and she volunteered to start leading the welcoming new neighbors committee at the meeting. The committee would organize social gatherings and brainstorm other ways to welcome new neighbors.
Also after the meeting, Vice President Sarah K. Taylor said she wanted to focus on making the neighborhood safer for families by promoting community and preventing crime.
The group also reviewed City Council agenda items, including an ordinance calling for a special election in August to consider raising stormwater utility charges. Members discussed delaying the election until November to allow for the new city manager’s input.
“What we need to do is speak before City Council and say that this is too quick a fix, and the new city manager should have an opportunity to review what’s happened,” board member Dan Cullimore said.
Fowler said she would write a statement to be read at City Council to oppose the ordinance at this time. Members agreed to review the statement via email and discussed asking other neighborhood associations to appear at the City Council meeting.
Toward the end of the meeting, Mark Stevenson spoke about the rezoning request for his property on the corner of Smith and Fay streets, where the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture’s urban farm is located. Stevenson said the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture asked him to seek commercial (C-1) zoning so people at the center could sell vegetables on their property.
The group discussed possible deed restrictions that would prevent certain businesses, such as adult entertainment or liquor stores, from starting on Stevenson’s land in the future. Members agreed to do further research and have an email conversation about the rezoning request, which the Planning and Zoning Commission will consider on May 19.
The group also talked about painting murals around the neighborhood in mid-June, forming a committee to review the association’s bylaws and possibly changing the dates of monthly meetings.