Residential growth in county is down 24%, report shows...

February 10, 2002

Residential growth in county is down 24%, report shows

Howard County's lightning-quick pace of residential development is slowing, a trend that pleases citizens who feel boxed in by growth and is credited with pushing house prices sharply higher.

In their annual Development Monitoring System Report, county planners revealed that builders finished 1,904 houses and apartments between October 2000 and September 2001. That's a 24 percent drop from the previous 12 months - when 2,494 homes were added to the landscape - and the lowest number in half a decade.

County Planning Director Joseph W. Rutter Jr., noting the strong housing market, attributes the slower pace of development to tighter regulations, not the sagging economy.

Wilde Times Cafe reopens to eager crowd

Teen-agers looking to have a good time Feb. 1 crowded outside Wilde Times Cafe in Wilde Lake Village Center, unable to gain admission to the sold-out reopening of the teen-operated coffeehouse.

Wilde Lake High School students had been working with their adult advisers since the cafe lost its lease last spring, trying to put the pieces together to reopen.

The long wait produced pent-up demand. The first night's show, which included performances by five local teen-age bands, quickly sold out. A half-hour after the opening at 7 p.m., the building had reached its capacity of 75 people.

Council approves pay raise for next county executive

The Howard County Council approved Monday night a $26,500 pay raise for the next county executive but rejected a $1,200 increase for members of the next council.

The council also agreed to eliminate the amusement tax on farm-related recreation. County Executive James N. Robey had requested a reduction in the tax from 7.5 percent to 5 percent.

Dagenais resigns as head of Long Reach board

The chairman of the Long Reach Village Board has abruptly quit the panel that oversees Columbia's largest village.

Henry F. Dagenais, who served on the board for six years and was chairman for five, declined to say Monday why he stepped down. "It's a personal thing," said Dagenais, 70, a decorated Army colonel who served in Korea and Vietnam.

Dagenais said that in a resignation letter sent to village officials Jan. 30, he "gave a little bit of a reason, but that's between me and the board and the village manager."

Officials work on plan to aid low-scoring schools

Howard County school officials are working on a new plan to improve the performance of the five lowest-scoring elementary schools on state standardized tests, according to school Superintendent John R. O'Rourke.

He declined to reveal details of the plan, which he said should be ready in about a month, after a meeting Tuesday between the school board and the County Council.

The five elementary schools - all of which scored below 40 on the state tests - are Talbott Springs, Dasher Green, Laurel Woods, Guilford and Swansfield. The county average score was 61.2 and the state's goal is for all schools to score 70.

Residents protest sites for 24-hour crisis center

Hundreds of Columbia residents flocked to town meetings last week to protest plans to build a 24-hour crisis center near their homes and schools.

County and state politicians turned out in droves, with some of them promising to fight public funding for the $6.5 million project if organizers try to build the center in Long Reach or Kings Contrivance.

"We are here to say - today, tonight and yesterday - no to the crisis center in Long Reach," County Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray said to about 300 people at Stonehouse in Long Reach Village Center on Tuesday night.

State Sen. Sandra B. Schrader voiced her opposition in Long Reach on Tuesday and again Wednesday night in Kings Contrivance to about 250 at Amherst House.

Parents want school's soil covered, tested for metals

A group of Ellicott City parents is demanding that Howard County officials immediately "cap" the soil around Worthington Elementary School to protect children from contamination - and begin an extensive round of testing inside the 26-year-old building.

Parents for Safe Schools - a grass-roots advocacy group of parents and community members from Worthington neighborhoods - hired a consultant to review testing of the school's soil completed last year by the county's Department of Public Works.

The consultant, Quality Environmental Solutions Inc. of Annapolis, determined that levels of metals in the ground around the school were high enough to cause concern. Four metals - aluminum, iron, vanadium, mercury - and also arsenic, exceeded minimum state cleanup guidelines in one or both sets of tests completed in August and December.

John O'Hara, chief of the county Bureau of Environmental Services, said the county has completed a "risk analysis" of its consultant's report and determined that no danger exists to children or adults at Worthington.

Rouse Co. plans to sell 8 Columbia village centers

Eight village centers at the heart of James W. Rouse's vision for a new suburban city are being sold with other major Columbia retailing hubs as the Rouse Co. shifts its focus away from the community it created out of 14,000 acres of Howard County farmland.

Rouse is selling a majority interest in the properties to Kimco Realty Corp. of New Hyde Park, N.Y. The price of the deal, to be completed in 30 to 60 days, was not disclosed.

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