Prudent in Columbia

Key decision: Columbia Council exercising due diligence on decision to annex the Key property.

June 06, 2000

SOME MAY wonder if they have the expertise, but Columbia's new council members seem to be asking all the right questions about the Rouse Co.'s newest development -- and whether it should be annexed.

The stakes are high: Current Columbia lien-payers will foot some of the bill for developing amenities, for example. But the council has begun exhaustive study of the pluses and minuses.

As Rouse's last major bit of residential and commercial development, the Key property seems to represent mostly upside possibilities: revenue prospects that far outweigh even the most pessimistic view of liabilities.

Yet the just-installed council wants all the assumptions checked and double-checked. It wants to see worst-case scenarios and middle-case scenarios to go along with the case it has heard already.

What the council has going for it, of course, is the Rouse Co.'s performance over more than 30 years of similar projects. Past accomplishments are no guarantee of future outcome, but they can be mightily reassuring.

It is no doubt true that the new area in North Laurel will be a drain in the early years. The Columbia Association must put up $3.6 million. Then, though, the new single-family, townhouse and business properties will more than pull their weight.

The council wants to be certain that new occupants will have access to schools -- and that those schools will be able to absorb the new students. And, of course, it must provide a swimming pool -- probably in the village of King's Contrivance -- until one is built on the Key land.

If all of these questions are satisfactorily answered, Columbia will have another spurt of growth, offering a new high-quality neighborhood certain to attract 3,500 more productive citizens.

Yes, the business-like new council should proceed with an exhaustive inquiry, but it is difficult to imagine a decision other than an affirmative one.

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