DEVELOPMENT APPROVED DESPITE PEOPLE'S WISHES
From: George M. Rovnack
The Howard County Planning Board has again totally ignored, as it has so many times before, the throngs of voices requesting consideration of their concerns over the Rouse Co. Benson Business Center, aka Columbia Restaurant Park.
This alleged "Citizen's Concerns" county government body has thrust the final stake into the hearts of the citizens opposed to the BBC development by granting blanket approval, without any public debate or discussion, of the individual development site specifics.
These specifics include such details as placement of businesses, lighting, hours of operation, etc.
These items were apparently discussed and agreed to in private, without public input, by the planning board and the developer.
I am personally appalled and damn mad since I am going to be faced with a 24-hour, three-story motel less than 150 feet from the front door of my home with an associated 24-hour gas station and Denny's and other fast-food eateries.
This is going to be just the perfect little Interstate 95 rest stop.
It is very appalling how this government body has laid out the red carpet for Rouse regarding this development.
They have literally gone out of their way to "rubber stamp" this development even following the highly publicized public controversy over this development by so many adjacent communities.
The behavior of this government body makes a mockery of what we in the United States define as democracy.
Case in point: When the issue of some specific citizen concern was raised to the board during the latest charade, Helen Ruther, who ironically was the only board member to vote against the development in the first place, was effectively told by chairwoman Kathryn Mann to "get with the plan" and stated that "this has already been discussed."
When Ruther made a motion to discuss the issue, none of the other board members would even second the motion -- not Kathryn Mann, not Kay Partridge, and certainly not Mr. Howard E. Harrison III.
It is truly unbelievable that this government body is allowed to conduct business in this manner and get away with it.
The planning board previously gave final approval of the BBC development based upon incorrect information and assumptions.
One such assumption, as depicted in the Rouse-generated and county-approved traffic study, was the fact that Route 108 would be subject to a decrease in traffic upon construction of Route 100 and a four-lane extension of Snowden River Parkway from Route 175 to 108, both to be in place by 1995.
Currently, Snowden River Parkway will only be two lanes extending to Tamar Drive. The completed sections of these two roads will increase, not decrease, traffic on an already level "F" (for failed) Route 108.
The planning board further went back on its original commitment to the citizens by not exercising its right to request a separate traffic study on the traffic effects of each site within the development.
Citizens tried to obtain (access) to these and other, similar issues through the Howard County Circuit Court, but were turned away on a technicality unrelated to the issues at hand. The three Rouse lawyers earned their salary that day!
Our elected government officials are either impotent to do anything or just simply complacent about the situation.
It seems that the communities' district representative, C. Vernon Gray, is always conveniently "out of town" when public discussion of the issues associated with the BBC controversy arises.
I'll wager that this would not be the case if BBC were in his front yard!
Why are our elected public officials so afraid to take a public position for or against this development?
Does Rouse have that much influence on the Howard County government?
Perhaps all those developer political contributions have something to do with it!
One thing is clear, the agenda of this county is development, regardless of what the citizens desire.
The last administration did not heed the outcry of its constituents and subsequently was swept away by the grass-roots political momentum spawned by arrogant and insensitive elected county government officials and by inadequate facilities and overdevelopment.
I hope Mr. Ecker, Mr. Gray and others in this county government take this to heart.
The next county elections are only four short years away, and many citizens have already begun to organize and plan for that day.
Editor's note: The writer is president of the Route 108 Coalition.