Ideas sought for Route 97 complex Meeting set tonight on plans for park, community services


Responding to increased demand for more government and recreational services in western Howard County, officials are refining plans for a government complex and regional park at Carrs Mill Road and Route 97.

The latest step will come at Bushy Park Elementary School in Glenwood, at a meeting at 7 p.m. today when officials will accept suggestions on how to build the complex and park on 181 acres just north of Glenwood Park.

The complex, which could be completed within 10 years, eventually could house a library, a community center, a senior center, a fire station and a police office. It also would have sports fields, a nature center and natural areas, county officials said.

The county is expected to make a final decision on the overall plan by the end of the year.

Some residents say Route 97 is becoming too commercial, but the proposal has support from residents who want the added convenience of a library and more sports fields in their area.

Carlos Garcia, an assistant soccer coach with the Western Howard Soccer Club, said that the park would alleviate crowding at existing fields and that the library would provide more resources to local children.

"I think it's a necessity," said Garcia, who lives on McKendree Road, just east of the proposed site. "A lot of kids can't afford computers, so we need to have things for them."

At tonight's meeting, residents will get a chance to comment on such things as how many buildings and what kinds of sports fields should be built, said Ken Alban, administrator for capital programs at the county Department of Recreation and Parks.

"We don't want to come in two years from now with a design and find out that's not what the community wants," Alban said. "If we're going in the wrong direction, we want them to tell us."

The idea for a government complex first came up in 1993, when the county was looking for a site for a library and a fire station, said Parks Planner Raul Delerme.

The government agencies could be housed in one building or in up to three buildings, said project manager Laura Csanady of the Department of Public Works.

County officials do not have a cost estimate for the complex. The county has appropriated $12 million to build the library, but the total cost of the library will depend on the final design, Csanady said.

Alban said the proposed park would cost about $5 million.

County Councilman Charles C. Feaga, a western Howard County Republican, said the library -- scheduled to be completed in 1999 -- is his first priority. He said he wants the community center and the library to be in the same building so that they can share a parking lot.

"This is the only part of the county that doesn't have a formal library, and it represents two-thirds of the county geographically," he said. "It's long overdue."

Feaga said the site could serve the area's needs for 30 to 40 years.

"Certainly, this will take care of future requirements," he said. "The county thought it would be prudent to buy land for those facilities because land will be difficult to purchase in the future."

Feaga said plans for the fire station are more remote because western Howard County has enough protection from volunteer firefighters.

Bob Buckley, a Warfield Estates resident who has attended informal meetings about the project for two years, said people at those meetings favored having the facilities in the area. He said he is more concerned about commercial development along Route 97 than about construction of a government complex.

"We don't have as much as Ellicott City and Columbia, but that's not what we moved out here for," he said. "If you want government facilities, don't dot the road with them. It's easier to have all of them in one place and fit into the rural nature of the area."

Garcia said that with proper planning, the government center would not interfere with the rural atmosphere of western Howard "Creating open space is the only way to keep fresh air and land," he said. "Otherwise, it will become a cement jungle."

Csanady said the county could implement all, some or none of the ideas gathered at tonight's meeting. Proposals will be included in the site master plan. which should be complete by the end of the year.

Pub Date: 7/30/96

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