Rouse is chained to the bottom lineLike the cobbler's kids...

LETTERS

March 23, 1997

Rouse is chained to the bottom line

Like the cobbler's kids who need new shoes, Columbia's village centers are falling apart under the proprietary nose of America's signature commercial developer.

Erin Texeira's March 6 report on the worries of Oakland Mills rightfully includes the list of other signs that our benevolent despot overseer, The Rouse Co., is chained to the bottom line. Long Reach and Harpers Choice have been scheduled for a major lifesaving facelift for some time, but the spade work is yet to begin.

I doubt I will believe it is happening until we get to the "broom

clean" part of the contract. In the meanwhile, we all need to show a little faith by shopping and supporting our local merchants. When I came here in 1987 and got an earful of the Columbia concept, I laughed a deep skeptical laugh and wondered how long it would be before the wheels came off. Too bad it appears to be happening only 30 years after conception.

However, I was raised in a big Eastern city with millions more people and buckets more problems that this town will ever see so I'm staying put. Being a "glass is half-full" kind of guy, I'd like to remind my fellow Columbians, from pioneers to newcomers, that paying attention pays dividends.

Run for village board seats, vote in the village elections, have a block party, meet your neighbors and, above all, let your representatives know you're alive. If you think you'll not fix it "til it's broken," wake up. It is.

John J. Snyder

Columbia

Redistricting Waverly Elementary

A battle has been brewing recently between various Mount Hebron communities over the redistricting of Waverly Elementary School which will be decided Tuesday by the Howard County school board.

The unfortunate battle is over the boundary line that will determine the school population for the next school season.

Many people in the communities east of Old Mill Road want the boundary line to be Old Mill Road, to coincide with the boundary line for the middle school. The biggest problem with this boundary line is that Waverly will be left with approximately 301 students, or 60 percent of capacity, and the new Hollifield Station Elementary School will open over capacity at 506 students.

What this means for Waverly is that there is likely to be a big reduction in school staff, resulting in split classrooms (i.e., first and second grades in the same classroom) as well as the elimination of the school band. Also, the school would lose full-time positions in art, music, gifted and talented, and other special programs.

The better alternative to the Old Mill boundary line would be McKenzie Road, which almost everyone west of Old Mill Road agrees is the more logical and equitable solution. This proposal gives Waverly 401 students and Hollifield would have 406. Both schools would still allow for future growth. Most of the opponents of the McKenzie Road boundary line come from the parents of students who live between Old Mill and McKenzie. They state that their children would be "pocket" students, meaning those students would be going to a different middle school (Patapsco) than the majority of their classmates.

So-called "pocket" students exist in just about every school district in every county across the nation. They also argue that the McKenzie Road boundary would split their "neighborhood."

This is not correct because there are at least three separate neighborhoods existing in the area -- Old Mill Estates, McKenzie Meadows and Mount Hebron at Patapsco. The McKenzie Road boundary will accomplish the best possible learning environment for all affected children.

Robert M. Donohue

Ellicott City

Zoning board acted in private

The Howard County Citizens Association was pleased that the Howard County Zoning Board decided to vote in public session on our request to separate the zoning and development petitions in the mixed-use rezoning case at Route 216 and Interstate 95.

However, HCCA believes that fairness and adequate public process also required that the board allow interested parties to present their arguments in a public session before that vote.

When HCCA originally requested that the zoning board separate the issues of zoning and preliminary development plan on this project, we did not elaborate on our request. We believed that the board would offer us, and the petitioners, an opportunity to state our cases in full at a public hearing.

Instead, we found that our letter was forwarded to the petitioner, who then responded in writing to the zoning board. Not only did we have no opportunity to review and comment on the petitioner's response, but the public process was further compromised when the zoning board met, discussed and voted upon this important issue in private.

The zoning board had a rare opportunity: It could have started over and done it right this time. Unfortunately, the board simply repeated its private vote in public. It is legal. It is also inadequate, unfair and reflects poorly on the credibiility of future decisions in this case.

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