These Days, It's Man-made Disasters That Ravage Ellicott City

3 CENTS WORTH

March 18, 1992|By Russ Mullaly

I have a collection of county comments to share with you this week.

Probably first on everyone's mind is the series of arsons and suspected arsons in the county. There have been four fires set at the Columbia Mall in four different stores and three recent fires in the Historic District of Ellicott City, of which two have been ruled arson.

Ellicott City's Main Street area has over the years been hard hitby a number of natural and accidental disasters. Floods and accidental fires have done a number on the historic town. Each time the residents and merchants have managed to bounce back.

But lately the disasters have been man-made. In 1989, a fire was set in what was a magic shop on Main Street, a few doors down from Taylor's Furniture. Thisfire caused the loss of that business. It never reopened as a magic shop. The suspected arsonist was believed to have been a customer whoasked to use the rest room, because the fire appeared to have originated in that part of the building.

We've lost too much of Howard County's history to natural disasters and the tools of the developer already. We don't need someone purposely destroying what we have left.Historic structures are a heritage for everyone to see and enjoy over many generations. Lately, whenever time I hear a fire truck, sirensblaring, heading for the vicinity of Main Street, I fear the worst.

Speaking of developers, I see the Reuwer juggernaut, in the form of Waverly Woods II, is rolling ever-closer to existence, with the Planning Board recommending by a vote of 3-2 that it be approved by the Zoning Board. Some parts of the county government probably think thiswill bring additional revenue to the county. I have the feeling it will end up costing the county money, in addition to exacting a far greater cost, namely, the quality of life here.

Along those same lines, the gorilla Wal-Mart still wants to sit on that same area of U.S.40 and North Ridge Road. If the zoning change it requires is passed,I feel sorry for the local merchants who could lose business, and the motorists who have to travel through that area. It could turn into Ritchie Highway North.

For those who don't think the development over the last 10 years has put a strain on county services and recreation, I have a case in point for you. Take the Department of Recreation and Parks

youth baseball/softball program. Earlier in the schoolyear, my son brought home a flier for the program. It was for the Western League; we live in the eastern area of Howard County.

When we called for information, we were told the Eastern Baseball/Softball League was already filled up. This was last December! When we took our son for his tryout a couple of weekends ago at Glenwood Middle school, we found the place was overflowing with kids and their parents. If this keeps up, in a few years, if not sooner, new residents' children won't have a place to play ball. Some of the coaches said playing fields were already at a premium.

By the way, Glenwood is not all that far to drive for us, and the scenery on the way is great. It's nice to know there are still some open spaces left in the county.

Oh, and one more thing, when the county government, or any government for that matter, promises you anything, get it in writing! Or better yet, back it up with a videotape.

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