Expensive Time to IncorporateThe issue of incorporation...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 02, 1995

Expensive Time to Incorporate

The issue of incorporation was studied in the late 1970s. In fact, the Municipal Option Committee of the Columbia Council filed a draft municipal charter in late 1978. Although I agree that every issue should be revisited periodically, I think some of the findings of the task force, which I chaired, might be relevant to today.

While some argue against bringing up "technical issues" at this time, it is important to question the status of schools, fire, police and many other concerns. For example, is incorporation to cover only the 15,400-plus acres designated as New Town or will it include out-parcels? Will it be like Los Angeles where you don't know whether you are in the city?

Things may be less favorable for incorporation than at the time the task force studied the issue. At the time the matter was first studied, interest rates were very high and the Rouse Co. still had a majority of seats on the council.

Today, much of the infrastructure in the New Town is old -- older schools, sidewalks, bike paths, homes ("Columbia's Older Villages Facing Typical Urban Woes," The Sun, March 19). Will Columbia follow the traditional model of an inner city surrounded by the suburbs?

I hope that we will take a good look at those groups behind the moves for and against incorporation to determine what are the real issues: What is to be lost, what is to be gained, who loses, who gains, what are the motives and power shifts? For example, if the issue is that the Columbia Association and the village boards are less democratic than desirable, can this not be remedied short of incorporation?

Finally, as I recall, one of the important findings that led our committee to file a majority report against the idea of incorporation was the general welfare clause of the state constitution. The interpretation of this clause was that a municipality could not fail to meet the needs of its citizens in view of its power to tax.

Again, it is an important issue and one that requires our best thinking and best intentions.

Delroy L. Cornick

Columbia

Service Sentences

It is encouraging to see Howard County criminal justice authorities using creative approaches to an old and difficult problem -- the punishment of criminals.

There are many positive aspects associated with forcing non-violent offenders to perform community service as punishment for their crimes. (Alan J. Craver's March 12 story, "Community Service Gains Favor as Criminal Penalty.")

. . . This type of punishment not only contributes directly to community organizations in need, but provides significant money-saving opportunities when ex-offenders are used to perform work for local government agencies at no cost.

Clearly, incarceration is not working for the non-violent criminal, and continues to become less practical from a financial view. Although the impact of every crime cannot always be measured in terms of dollars, what we pay to arrest, try, feed and house non-violent criminals, in almost all cases, is much more than this person cost our society by his crime. We must improve our ability to balance our emotional responses to the penalty we perceive a criminal deserves with the financial reality of delivering the penalty. . . .

Raymond W. Lucas

Columbia

Historic Preservation Weak

As a resident of Howard County for more than 23 years, I too am concerned about historic preservation in my county. I am referring to the editorial in The Evening Sun of March 6, "Putting teeth in historic preservation."

I was floored that the county let a beautiful historic mansion such as Woodlawn be torn down. I, too, had the pleasure of dining there in years past when it was the Papillon restaurant.

. . . I can only speculate what will be developed on this parcel, but I am sure it won't have the flair it did many years ago when Woodlawn stood among the stately trees.

Residents who live near Gorman Road are banding together to try to save a farmhouse that is believed to be historic, and slated for a school. My community school, Ellicott Mills Middle, is slated for replacement in 1999. It needs replacing but what can be done to protect the historic part of this school? I am all for new schools but not at the loss of historic buildings. We recycle our garbage; can't we recycle older buildings?

I read recently about how concerned citizens are up in arms about clearing the wooded area on the Trinity property for an elementary and middle school. This week, it's the demolition of an historic site. . . . If the community doesn't take a stand, our county could lose all its historic charm.

Karen Jeffries

Ellicott City

As a point of clarification, the late Woodlawn Mansion was not a ruin as your March 20 article suggested by using the term "remains." It was not only intact but safe enough for the Security Development Corporation to have a caretaker live there and you know the cautiousness of insurance companies. This historic mansion could have and should have been saved.

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