Development at center of residents' concerns

Rural land preservation, sprawl among topics at General Plan forum

March 02, 2000|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

Ann Jones of Ellicott City compares the Howard County General Plan to the popular children's book "Where's Waldo," where readers scan colorful crowds of people trying to find the funny cartoon character with the red-and-white striped hat.

But in the case of the Howard County General Plan, she said, everybody's scanning it nervously, desperately trying to figure out the technical jargon, wondering, "Where's Wal-Mart?"

Jones was one of about 25 citizens who came to last night's community forum on the Howard County General Plan, a policy document that will guide growth and revitalization of the county for 20 years. The forum was the first of five that will be held in the county over the next couple of weeks to give citizens a say in determining Howard's future.

The Planning Department is seeking as much citizen input as possible before writing a draft of the General Plan, said Joseph W. Rutter Jr., director of the county Department of Planning and Zoning.

Citizens last night expressed views on a wide array of topics.

Jones worried about a potential expansion of public sewer and water service in the western county. She and others fear it would encourage development and ruin the area's rural character.

Robert I. Bernstein, of Ellicott City, hopes preservation of the rural west doesn't come at the expense of the not-so-rural east. He wants planners to start paying more attention to architecture that preserves the flavor of county neighborhoods.

Joseph Kershner of Ellicott City wants a more pedestrian-friendly county. "People feel trapped by sprawl when they have to get in their cars to get a half-gallon of milk," he said.

David Catania of Ellicott City wishes there were a way to get citizens more involved, so they don't feel so powerless in the face of development.

Bill Newman of Ellicott City wants more emphasis on environmental preservation and public transportation. "There's no public transportation to speak of in Howard County," he said. "I want to see preservation of additional land in the county before it is all gone."

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