At a public hearing last night, about 50 residents offered suggestions for the 2000 Howard County General Plan that will shape the county's future.
The suggestions included improving information technology resources in schools and building more walking paths.
The hearing at the George Howard Building in Ellicott City was conducted by the Planning Board, which will help draft the General Plan that shapes growth.
Several residents complained about the rapid pace of growth in the county and said that the General Plan should not extend public sewer and water service in the rural western county.
"We must protect our rural legacy and support the agriculture community," said William Waff, president of the Savage Community Association. "We do not need to develop the entire county with houses and become similar to a New York City borough."
Columbia homeowner John Schmidt said he was dismayed by the sight of bulldozers on undeveloped land.
"There's a knee-jerk reaction that growth is good, and I haven't been convinced that growth is good," he said.
Some residents asked the board to make improved public transportation a priority.
Muriel Sumner, a member of a passenger advisory group that monitors public transportation issues in the county, said the General Plan should address expanding bus service.
She said many senior citizens and disabled residents do not own automobiles and need to get around by bus or taxi.
"We have to buy groceries, get to a job and get home from it, and the only way to do this is to use a bus," Sumner said.
Laura Decker of Dayton and others stressed protecting the environment to keep drinking water safe from pollution caused by increased development.
"We've all heard that there has to be predictability for developers, but I think we need predictability for citizens," she said. "We need the predictability of clean water for us and future generations."
Lee Walker Oxenham, conservation chairwoman for the Sierra Group, said that heavy development proposed for the Bonnie Branch Road-College Avenue-New Cut Road triangle could destroy county-designated "scenic roads."
"We are seeing that area being raped," she said. "We would like to see something in the next General Plan that would prevent the rampage in this area that we are currently witnessing."
The public hearing was the first on the draft report of the 34-member General Plan Task Force.
The advisory panel of civic activists, business leaders and county officials was appointed by County Executive James N. Robey in April to identify issues -- such as creating a Department of Resource Protection to oversee preservation of wetlands and forests -- that should be addressed in the General Plan.
The five-member board will hold a work session on the plan at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Pub Date: 7/30/99