Ambient hazards of growth

Howard County: Prosperity has its own problems and opportunities, but the alternative is worse.

October 14, 1999

TO LIVE IN suburbia these days is to fret about growth: Sometimes, it seems, there's too much of everything: too much building, too many people, even too many plants.

Plant experts patrolling in Howard County worry about an invasive, flowering weed called loosestrife. Multiflora roses and even Queen Anne's lace are threats as well. In time, they could kill enough benign vegetation to threaten the ecosystem that nurtures them.

A homeowners group opposes an elder care development. It's too big, they say, and potentially damaging aesthetically. Another group seeks to halt a commercial development where lawyers might have offices -- and draw criminal customers.

A family goes to court seeking damages from a builder who, they allege, was so preoccupied with building it destroyed a venerable white oak that was one of their reasons for buying the lot in the first place.

The Howard County Community College struggles to find enough space to accommodate its burgeoning enrollment. Once-empty classrooms are "booked all the time," a college official says. An addition is planned but can't be built fast enough to meet the current need. Suitable temporary space elsewhere in the county is difficult to find. The college, determined to pursue its mission of open access for all, plans to keep advertising for more students. A higher power, perhaps, will provide.

And in Ellicott City, a property owners' league is being formed to create a more critical mass against disruptive building plans.

These problems are associated with the county's pastoral allure, its growing population of striving and goal-oriented people and its determination to preserve the quality of life. All good things.

People cope as best they can, sometimes forgetting that many other communities would love to have similar problems.

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