Public shares ideas for its vision for next century

125 citizens attend meeting

findings to go into a report

April 08, 1999|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Jillian Kong-Silvert, 30, who grew up in Columbia and graduated from Oakland Mills High School, fretted that her Generation-X peers aren't involved much in community life.

Dan Crowley said he moved to Ellicott City two years ago from New England and he is impressed with Howard County -- but he can't figure out where he is sometimes. "Some town centers or landmarks might help. I don't know where we are much of the time," Crowley confessed to laughter.

Those opinions and others on issues such as mass transit and combating poverty were aired at last night's meeting of Howard County -- A United Vision, a group that is designing a new vision for the fast-growing county.

About 125 people -- members of the general public -- attended the meeting at Wilde Lake High School to put in their 2 cents worth. It was the public's first opportunity to comment on the new vision.

Howard County -- A United Vision has had two meetings of its roughly 200 stakeholders -- county residents -- who are drafting a report that will be released in October.

Sandra Gray, who co-chairs the group with Charles I. Ecker, the former county executive, said it is most important for the final report to contain input from people from all walks of life, races, religions and areas of the county.

At the meeting, Alfreda Gill, born in Pakistan, worried that Asian immigrants work too hard and too long to achieve their economic dreams to get involved much in civic affairs.

Vince Marando worried that when his grandchildren are grown, they will see "a more segregated, divided [Columbia]" with the western county "an area of big, big homes."

"We want you to serve as our reality check on what the stakeholders developed in the first two meetings," said Jarle Crocker, one of two staff members from the National Civic League in Denver that is helping the Vision group draft its report.

The idea for the Vision group sprang from citizen suggestions to the Columbia Foundation, which contributed the first $15,000 to get the yearlong effort started in October.

The foundation also hired the National Civic League, a 105-year-old group dedicated to citizen involvement in building and running communities.

The report will be used in drafting the county's new 10-year General Plan, due in 2000, and to help Howard residents find common ground on which to build a sense of community in a jurisdiction that has doubled its population twice since 1960.

Growth has remade the formerly rural county into a suburban economic powerhouse, spurred in the late 1960s by the creation of Columbia, a planned town that has about 90,000 residents.

Also, as Columbia's oldest neighborhoods face the challenge of preservation, the county is entering what may be its final decade of rapid growth, challenging residents to find ways of dealing with growth, redevelopment and other changes simultaneously.

Pub Date: 4/08/99

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