Group to unveil growth goals

Report on race, land use is focus of celebration today

November 21, 1999|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

With goals ranging from transforming attitudes about racial inclusiveness to using land efficiently, a 60-plus-page report, "Howard County -- A United Vision," is due today at a grand celebration.

The presentation, which will start at 3 p.m. at Wilde Lake High School, will include a bluegrass band, a children's chorus and local storytellers. It marks a key point in an effort to create a plan for the county's future.

The bulk of the work leading to the report, conceived by Columbia Foundation members in 1997, began about six months ago when invitations went out to more than 200 county residents. Participants were guided by organizers from the National Civic League, a private, nonprofit group based in Colorado. The foundation is a philanthropic, nonprofit organization founded in 1969 by the late James W. Rouse.

Howard County -- A United Vision was formed to find ways to mold Howard's quarter-million people into one community after 35 years of rapid growth. It's estimated that the population will grow to 253,000 next year; the population in 1970 was 68,000.

The report also is meant to complement county government's creation of the next 10-year county General Plan, a draft of which is due next month. Committees were formed on topics such as education, public safety, diversity and land use, and the groups have met at the old Savage Mill.

"An organizing committee will meet over the next month. There will be a new civic organization to carry on the work," United Vision co-chairman Charles I. Ecker, a former county executive, told a Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday at Columbia's Sheraton Hotel. "We need each other. We need one county. We do not need Lisbon fighting Columbia, or Columbia fighting Savage."

Co-chairwoman Sandra T. Gray agrees that the report must be a beginning, not an end, to the growth-planning process.

The proposed civic group would carry out the report's goals, and be "a different type of organization. The role is to be a facilitator, catalyst and advocate -- a coordinator of the involvement of the people," Gray said. "It's been a year of concerted effort. Here is how the citizens of the county see the future of the county."

The diversity committee sees a future in which "people move from tolerance to acceptance of individual uniqueness and diverse cultures."

To achieve this "personal and institutional transformation," the committee has created a "diversity checklist" -- a tool officials can use as a guide. The checklist is composed of 18 items that try to gauge the commitment to diversity of the guidelines' users. Those users could range from public offices to businesses and community groups.

The development committee has an equally detailed outlook, calling for actions to preserve older county communities, directing development to areas that have infrastructure and renovating older areas in decline.

The committee wants a range of housing units available, especially for the county's rising number of senior citizens and moderate-income residents, along with strict enforcement of standards for rentals.

The committee also calls for creation of a task force to monitor housing issues.

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