Howard Week

October 21, 2001

Circuit court clerk seeks air testing in historic building

After a sampling of air quality in Howard County's historic courthouse showed elevated carbon dioxide and humidity levels in some areas, a court official is seeking a more comprehensive assessment of air flow in the building.

Margaret D. Rappaport, clerk of the county Circuit Court, said she requested the survey because of complaints by employees of chronic headaches, eye irritation, respiratory problems and other illnesses.

The samples indicate that carbon dioxide concentrations in the clerk's office are above industry standards but below levels that government regulators consider a hazard. Rappaport, in a letter to County Executive James N. Robey dated Oct. 3, asked that the county inspect the air systems and conduct a thorough air-quality test in the building.

Newly elected member quits Columbia Council

A Columbia council member who won his seat in the biggest upset of April's elections has quit the post, saying he is frustrated by continued sniping on the council and his inability to get financial information from staff.

"I can't work in that kind of environment," said Steven Pine of Kings Contrivance, who submitted a letter of resignation to his village board last week.

Columbia Association officials disputed Pine's contention that they ignored his request for financial information. Pine's resignation took effect immediately.

State Court of Appeals ends battle over estate

The long court battle over Blandair, a 300-acre island of greenery in the heart of Columbia, is finally over. Maryland's Court of Appeals has declined to review the case, which for more than three years has pitted Howard County against the Blandair Foundation, a group fighting to prevent officials from turning the estate into a regional park with recreational facilities such as soccer fields.

Blandair's reclusive owner, Elizabeth C. "Nancy" Smith, was resolutely against development - James W. Rouse had to build Columbia around her farm. She died in 1997 at age 82 without signing a will to specify how the land was to be used. The next year, her relatives agreed to sell Blandair to Howard County for $11 million, touching off the legal scuffle.

Now, the land that for years has been guarded against trespassers will be opened to the public.

Long Reach now part of northern police district

On Wednesday, Howard County's northern police district became a little larger. The district was expanded to embrace Long Reach village of Columbia.

The Police Department is making the switch to try to balance officers' workloads. Southern District officers have been handling the majority of the county's calls for service in recent years.

In 1999, the Southern District responded to about 66,000 - 61 percent - of the county's 108,000 calls for service. Based on 1999 data, the new police configuration will divide calls for service at roughly 55 percent to 45 percent, with the Southern District still handling more calls.

Developer wants to put 90 lots on Carroll tract

Development plans for a coveted tract of Ellicott City land once owned by a signer of the Declaration of Independence are coming into focus.

Security Development LLC wants to prepare lots for 90 homes on the 270-acre parcel it owns jointly with four members of the Carroll family, according to a sketch plan the company filed with Howard County on Tuesday. The lots, clustered together, will be an acre each.

When people move into the subdivision, tentatively known as Homewood, they will live on courts with names such as "Wexford" and "Castlebridge" - a short walk from one of the county's largest houses, the $2.7 million castle built by a couple who won the Powerball. Developers who were interested in buying the 270-acre parcel - but couldn't get it - say it is one of the choicest tracts left in Howard, where buildable land is expected to be used up in 15 to 20 years.

Waters abruptly resigns from county school board

Howard County Board of Education member Laura Waters resigned Thursday from her position on the five-member panel, with three years left in her term.

In a letter to County Executive James N. Robey, Waters said she wanted to leave the school board because "I no longer believe that I can represent my constituents fairly if my integrity and principles are compromised. I have not made this decision lightly, but have thought about it for the past five months."

Waters, 54, could not be reached for comment, but county and school officials said the news was surprising. "It came out of the blue," said Robey, after Waters handed him the letter of resignation Tuesday. It became effective Thursday.

Suspect's statements ruled admissible in court

Scott Jory Brill's statements during six hours of interviews with the two detectives investigating 14-year-old Ashley Nicole Mason's death are admissible at Brill's murder trial, a Howard County Circuit Court judge ruled Thursday.

Judge Dennis M. Sweeney denied a defense motion to bar Brill's statements - which include an admission that he stabbed Ashley once in the stomach - at the trial, which is scheduled to begin tomorrow. Although detectives might have used some deception to get information from Brill, Sweeney said, the 19-year-old Columbia man seemed to be aware of the police tactics and chose to continue with the interview.

The statements, included in a 277-page transcript of four police interviews conducted Dec. 15 and 21, are expected to figure prominently in Brill's trial on a charge of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of the Long Reach High School freshman in November.

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