Candidates for Piney Orchard’s Board of Directors met with community members on Wednesday, offering their opinions on issues ranging from pond repairs to nearby development.
The Piney Orchard Community Association held its annual “meet the candidates” forum, featuring five of the six residents seeking board positions in the April elections.
Candidates gave statements introducing themselves to the community, then answered a series of questions in a session lasting about an hour. About 25 residents attended the forum.
The community association is seeking to fill three board positions.
The candidates for those spots are:
Tyler Balderson—A River’s Edge resident who works for FA Bartlett Tree Company. Balderson was unable to attend Wednesday’s forum.
Kelly Bowlus—The POCA secretary and a member of several committees is seeking reelection to the board.
Scott DiBiasio—A lobbyist in Washington who has lived in Piney Orchard for seven years. He has been critical of the POCA board for maintaining too large a reserve fund, arguing that a smaller fund would allow residents to pay lower assessment fees.
James Fraser—An engineering consultant who resides in Piney Orchard with his wife Jessica O’Kane, and his two children. Fraser is the chairman of the Odenton Town Center Plan Oversight Committee and said he was running to ensure residents were informed of the status of the Odenton Town Center developments. He said he would prefer that his wife serve on the board.
Jessica O’Kane—The wife of James Fraser and a lawyer. Active in the MOMS Club of Piney Orchard.
Derek Olszanowski—Regional property manager with The Dolben Company, which owns apartment buildings in Piney Orchard.
Wednesday’s forum covered a wide range of issues, with questions submitted to the candidates from residents in advance.
Candidates agreed that the community should move forward in making upgrades to the pond near the community center and also supported stricter enforcement of POCA covenants.
There was some disagreement over the size of the community’s reserve fund, which is about $1.6 million. DiBiasio said the reserve was unnecessarily large and he would prefer to see residents pay lower assessment fees.
“The reserves are excessive, especially in these hard economic times,” he said.
Bowlus said the community worked with outside consultants to study the reserve as recently as 2010 and received compliments for not depleting it.
“They congratulated us for having our reserves at the level they should be,” Bowlus said.
DiBiasio was also critical of POCA by-laws that permit the Dolben Company to represent apartment residents in community elections. Dolben owns about 725 apartments, and is capable of casting all of those votes to a single candidate if it chooses.
DiBiasio also pointed out that Olszanowski, the Dolben employee running for the board, resides in Columbia and not Piney Orchard.
Debbie Roebuck, a Dolben employee who will serve on the board through next month, clarified for those in attendance that an assessment is paid to POCA on each of the 725 units, not just three apartment communities as a whole.
Olszanowski told community members that he expected to spend considerable time in Piney Orchard if he were elected to the board and insisted that he would not be compensated by Dolben for serving. There is nothing in the POCA by-laws requiring Olszanowski to reside in the community.
Candidates all responded to a question about whether the POCA by-laws should be up for review, given that they were written more than 20 years ago. Most were noncommittal on the issue, but indicated that it was an issue worth examining.
“I wouldn’t necessarily go looking for problems if there were none apparent,” Fraser said.
POCA will hold its board elections during its annual meeting at 7 p.m. April 10 at Piney Orchard Elementary School.
Residents can be added to the election ballot at the annual meeting if they receive a nomination from another community member.