Protecting a historic district Ellicott City: Development near storied Howard County seat must not degrade old mill town's character.

October 07, 1998

DEVELOPMENT within a stone's throw of the historic district of Ellicott City was inevitable. As the amount of land available for construction in eastern Howard County continues to diminish, builders have turned their attention to the smaller parcels near homes and businesses.

Their plans have raised concern because development near the historic district won't be subject to the same rules as structures within it. The construction of three commercial buildings the past year suggests a haste to approve development that may not take into consideration what the area surrounding the historic district should look like.

Thirty projects of varying sizes have been proposed for the immediate vicinity. That's in addition to the commercial zTC construction along U.S. 40 and Montgomery Road.

The county's Historic District Commission does review nearby projects to determine their impact on Ellicott City. But its authority to regulate construction is confined to the district itself.

Respect for historic preservation is a persistent issue, especially in this region. Annapolis, the colonial-era state capital, is often embroiled in controversies over historic architecture. Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger suffered some of his sharpest criticism in his first term because of failed efforts to protect significant buildings.

Howard planning and zoning officials must protect Ellicott City and environs. It's not that every new building should look like its colonial counterparts. But it makes sense to retain as much of the character of 18th-century Maryland as possible in a town that uses that ambience to attract tourists.

Several developers have said they do not want to build anything that detracts from the area. They should have no problem limiting the type of development that can be seen from the historic district.

Pub Date: 10/07/98

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