Residents look for ways to widen master plan area

Focus is put on issues beyond historic district

Ellicott City

March 27, 2001|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Ellicott City residents grumbled last night about problems with the place they call home.

Next step: Solutions.

About 25 people gathered last night at the George Howard Building in Ellicott City in the first step in updating the community's master plan, a two-decade-old document that addresses growth, traffic and other issues.

The plan focused mainly on the historic district - only a small part of the sprawling community - and people want to expand its reach.

County Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, an Ellicott City Republican who organized the meeting, told participants that he hopes a draft will be ready by next spring.

County officials recently finished the 2000 General Plan, which sets strategies and goals for the county but mentions few specifics about individual towns.

"This gets into finer details," Merdon said of the plan for Ellicott City.

Residents had a laundry list of finer details to offer.

Some were concerned about U.S. 40, Ellicott City's main commercial strip.

They want county officials to study the area as carefully as they are examining U.S. 1, which is the focus of a revitalization project.

Others urged a look at traffic patterns, congested roads and speeding.

Tony McGuffin, president of the Ellicott City Democratic Club, complained that new development in the area looks alike - " all tan, white and gray"

"Perhaps there should be some accounting for taste," he said, suggesting that the community work with developers to come up with subdivisions that look right for the area.

Gary Segal, president of the Patapsco Heights-Church Road Association, said flooding is a recurring problem in his neighborhood in the historic district. Mud runs through the community every time it rains, he said.

Infrastructure worries

Infrastructure problems, including crowded schools, is a concern for Ellicott City resident Eric Hupfer.

"We continue to bend to developers and not look at the impact," he said.

Merdon pointed out that the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance helps because it won't allow development in areas where elementary or middle schools are more than 15 percent over capacity, giving the county government an opportunity to catch up.

But Hupfer said he doesn't think the ordinance has been effective.

Ed Langrall, treasurer of the Patapsco Scenic Triangle Homeowners Association in Ellicott City, said he thought the theme of last night's discussion was obvious.

"If you look at everything you wrote down," Langrall said, nodding toward the list of suggestions from residents, "I imagine that three-quarters of that [has] to do with controlling development."

A question of funding

Angie Beltram, a member of the Howard County Citizens Association, asked Merdon how much money has been budgeted for the master plan effort.

Nothing yet, he said.

"This is one of the problems in the past," she said. "There are words ... and there's no money."

But putting together a plan does improve a community's chances of getting grants and county funds for projects, county planners have said.

"It really gives you a base of support because it says: `We all agree that this should be done,'" said Mina Hilsenrath, the chief of the division of environmental and community planning.

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