Looking ahead to 2015 Planners should move forward with ideas to redevelop older areas.

November 21, 1997

REDEVELOPMENT IS a word that sounds out of place in Howard County, which prides itself on a youthful vigor in spite of the pre-Revolutionary histories of Ellicott City and Elkridge.

Howard is a county where new communities still rise in places where there were vast woodlands just a few years ago and where adolescent Columbia's final village center just opened last weekend.

But redevelopment could play a key role in Howard's future. The county's developed areas do not look so young any more. Residential and business districts along the U.S. 1 corridor through Elkridge, Jessup and North Laurel communities could use imaginative approaches toward making them vibrant again. Parts of U.S. 40 in Ellicott City struggle with age and commercial blight.

Infusing new life into existing areas might determine how many of the thousands of newcomers will carve out their own islands in undeveloped parts of the county's western half versus how many will save older communities.

People are continuing to move into Howard in droves. The Baltimore Metropolitan Council predicts that the county will grow by nearly 80,000 residents over the next 18 years. The council projects that Howard will be a key part of growth in the Baltimore metropolitan region, which it predicts will expand by 338,000 residents to 2.7 million in 2020. Howard's population will peak at 309,000 in the year 2015 and then begin a slight decline, according to the council's projections.

Three decades of furious construction in Howard County have resulted in a sporadic collection of multi-acre lots. The pattern of subdivision appears like a planning jumble. Even Columbia, the planned city that was designed as an antidote to sprawl, has created its own suburbs.

With little time left before Howard's growth peak, the next general plan and ensuing comprehensive rezonings of its eastern and western portions could be the last chance to determine what shape the county ultimately will take.

County planners say redevelopment will be an important part of the next general plan. It should. It would be a waste of money and natural resources to neglect existing communities while subsidizing growth in rural lands.

Pub Date: 11/21/97

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