North Laurel property plan full of holes I attended the...


July 02, 2000

North Laurel property plan full of holes

I attended the June 22 Columbia Association council meeting where Rafia Siddiqui presented the numbers in support of annexation of the North Laurel Key property to Columbia.

Somehow the figures were no longer quite as attractive as the earlier figures that were leaked to the press.

The $3 million investment that was to bring in $30 million in revenues over 20 years has evolved into a $1.8 million gain or a $2.4 million loss in the latest scenarios respectively over the same time span.

We can certainly dismiss the optimistic scenario presented since CA has never met any optimistic or even realistic projections for any of its development projects.

Clearly the CA Council/Board decisions to annex the Key property, as presented by CA Management/Rouse Co. cannot be based on the numbers, which are, at best, break-even.

So the question that the board must answer is this: Why should CA undertake the annexation of a property located in North Laurel which is not even contiguous with the rest of Columbia?

CA Management, acting as usual in concert with the Rouse Co., proposes to saddle the Columbia lien-payers with a $7.3 million price tag (not including projected operating losses in early years) for the following items that are normally paid for by the developer:

Five parks, a ball field, 14,000 feet of pathways, 10 secondary entrances, nine Tot Lots, three public tennis courts, a swimming pool and a neighborhood center.

If there are compelling reasons for annexation (I cannot think of a single one at the moment) then the next question that needs an answer is how much of the Columbia Association's funds should be invested in the project.

If the Rouse Co. is so anxious to capitalize on the Columbia label for its new development, then let the Rouse Co. pay for the amenities it proposes.

The time has come for CA to grow up and to stop acting like a subsidiary of the Rouse Co.

The Rouse Co. is in the business of making money, not in the business of looking out for Columbia's lien-paying residents.

After all these years, the Rouse Co. is still calling the shots and Columbia Association management is acting like a subservient child of a benevolent parent.

The time has come for the CA Council/Board to put an end to this unholy alliance and start acting independently.

Arie Eisner, Wilde Lake

Unlocking mystery of the Key annexation

At the June 22 meeting of the Columbia Association Council, we heard a presentation prepared by staff working with Rouse Co. input, listing the economic pros and cons of annexing Rouse's Key property.

The Rouse Co. is asking Columbia lien-holders to invest from $3 million to $5 million now, in the hope of making a profit in 20 years.

The Rouse Co.'s development arm is pressing for an answer by September and some members of the Columbia Association staff and council are apparently anxious to oblige.

Is it just a coincidence that the zoning of this property is still in litigation and an early agreement by CA would certainly strengthen Rouse's case?

This carefully prepared presentation had a hypnotic effect. Some of the council members, attempting to break free of this effect, tried to discuss other considerations. The council, however, forged ahead with plans to disseminate this package of numbers without including the following points for public discussion:

Folk wisdom tells us, "If it's too good to be true, it probably is." Consumer advocates tell us, "If you're offered a deal with a time limit, stop, look and listen very carefully."

Is bigger better? How will adding another village to Columbia improve the ambiance, the comfort, the safety or the value of our homes?

CA has just proudly announced that they ended the last fiscal year with its first surplus ever, but it still has a $90 million debt outstanding. Is the surplus burning a hole in CA's pocket?

Why take on additional debt? Shouldn't the needs of our current villages take precedence over this proposed venture?

It has been reported that the Rouse Co. said that if Columbia rejects its proposal, they would find another developer.

This would be no threat to Columbia; perhaps they should.

The Key property issue is a critical one with wide ranging, short- and long-term effects on Columbia residents.

Why should the Rouse Co. continue directing Columbia's future?

Henry Shapiro, Lillian Shapiro, Wilde Lake

Maple Farms editorial `gives ill-informed view'

Your editorial "High Stakes at Maple Farms" (June 27) gives an ill-informed view of what transpired at the June 19 Howard County Zoning Board work session. At this session, zoning board members Allan Kittleman and Chris Merdon proposed reducing residential density, increasing employment density and linking construction of the large Maple Lawn Farms Mixed Use Development to Rt. 216 improvements.

To label their plan "a late-hour proposal" implies that the months of hearings on the merits of the development should be considered an irrelevant, unnecessary interlude.

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