Residents offer hopes for future

Ideas will be used to craft blueprint for Vision 2030

Howard County

April 19, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Melissa Chatham's request to the six adults seated before her last night at Oakland Mills High School in Columbia seemed simple enough.

"Close your eyes, and imagine yourself 10 or 15 years from now - your most cherished dreams and ideas [for the Baltimore region] are realized. What do you see? Whom do you meet? What are your children and grandchildren doing? How do you transform that vision into reality?"

That's what the 40 or so people who, despite a thunderous rainstorm, gathered to help conceive, with the help of six groups leaders like Melissa.

The meeting at Oakland Mills - one of 17 in the area - is part of a regional effort called Vision 2030.

John Pfifer drove from Silver Spring to attend, after reading about the session on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Web site.

The young lawyer's suggestion was not unusual - more mass transit and less highways and parking lots.

"I'm interested in not seeing everything developed like I-270 and I-66," he said.

Mohammed Saleem came from River Hill in Columbia, and wants people to "get to know their family, friends and neighbors," and "create diverse communities, in all aspects."

After a 45-minute primer on the process in the school cafeteria, the participants split into six groups. Each group helped to create a list of ideas and ranked them. The lists will be used to help craft a blueprint that could be the foundation for regional plans for the next three decades, said Paul R. Farragut, executive director of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, and Anthony Brown of Rosborough Communications.

The process, which began in October of last year and is due for completion in September, is similar to a Howard County visioning process undertaken in 1999 as the county worked on a new 20-year General Plan.

A second meeting in Howard is scheduled for May 2 at Ellicott Mills Middle School, 4445 Montgomery Road in Ellicott City. Registration begins at 6:30 p.m.

The Baltimore Regional Transportation Board commissioned the effort, supported by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council. Both groups are alliances of elected leaders of Baltimore City, and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties, and Annapolis, said Brent Burkhardt, a spokesman.

Stoney Fraley, vision project manager, said a combination of federal and local transportation planning money was used to foot the $500,000 bill to hire American Communities Partnership of New York as a consultant to conduct the sessions. Baltimore Regional Partnership, a local umbrella group of community and environmental nonprofits, are adding money to pay for some of the public meetings, which began April 9 in Owings Mills and will end May 8 in Catonsville.

Key issues are the continued use of farmland and open space for new housing, traffic congestion that contributes to air pollution, and growing numbers of jobs in suburbs that go begging, while prospective workers remain in Baltimore, untrained and unable to reach them.

The Maglev train, a new transportation option intended to introduce high-speed rail travel along the East Coast, has drawn increasing opposition from suburban Anne Arundel County and Howard County residents who don't want the train coming through their neighborhoods.

The vision process seeks to prepare for the 200,000 more households expected in the region by 2030, and the 219,000 new jobs, along with shopping, schools, and transportation needs that will support them.

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