Future shocks?

November 19, 1990

Chuck Ecker, Howard County's executive-elect, says the General Plan has "some good parts, and some not so good parts." Not according to the Maryland's American Planning Association. Last week the organization awarded Howard County, and specifically planning director Uri Avin, the 1991 National Planning Award for Comprehensive Planning -- for the 281-page blueprint that lays out an agenda for managed growth over the next two decades.

Ecker, for his part, appears unimpressed. The man who came into office on a wave of anger over growth and development almost immediately singled out Avin to be replaced.

Ecker has promised to take his time in naming a new planning director. Still it is an ominous sign that he quickly named Harry "Chip" Lundy, a homebuilder, to oversee a land-use and management subcommittee as part of his transition team. Having a developer make planning recommendations is a radical departure to say the least from the approach of Liz Bobo, who pushed the award-winning General Plan through the council as a compromise between builders and the no-growth contingent and, ironically, was defeated in large part because of it. More significant is that Ecker also tapped three people to lead his transition team who are from the business-dominated Economic Forum, which challenged Bobo's land-use initiatives at every turn.

At this early juncture, with Howard facing a $10 million shortfall this year, Ecker insists that fiscal issues, not growth, are the real problem. Perhaps. But the tenets of the General Plan are nonetheless valid and worth preserving. It would a great loss for Howard County if the groundswell of hostility which was expressed in the voting booth were allowed to erode the excellent planning that has already been done.

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