Howard Week

May 19, 2002

Robey, Bobo urge CA board members to respect each other

The inaugural meeting of the new Columbia Association Board of Directors turned into something of a civics seminar as Howard County political leaders noted recent conflicts on the board and urged the Columbia leaders to openly debate issues and respect diverse ideas.

County Executive James N. Robey told the board May 9 that "we have something very sacred to protect here" and encouraged members to disagree with each other.

"Different points of view are critical to Columbia's continued success," he said.

Del. Elizabeth Bobo recognized that "clearly, it hasn't been an easy year" for the board and said she hoped the group would find a way to have full and open discussions.

Moderate-income house increases to $110,600

Inflation since last year has pushed the official price of a new townhouse for moderate-income people in Howard County up 4.9 percent to $110,600 - which would still be a great price if any were available.

Howard's Housing and Community Development Board voted to approve the new price May 9, but the vote did little except further illustrate Howard's worsening housing market.

The prosperous county's housing is in a prolonged price spiral, and the rental market is tight too, even in the traditionally less expensive southeastern area. And despite years of public and private efforts to provide more affordable homes for county civil servants and mid- level wage earners, successes are few and far between.

Construction under way for Giant's expansion

Lights and trees have been uprooted and walkways broken apart at Owen Brown Village Center to make room for Giant Food's $10 million expansion, which is on track for the store's grand reopening scheduled for the fall.

The five shops near what used to be a walkway to the back of the shopping center are being demolished, and those tenants - including Hair Cuttery, Owen Brown Liquors and the Dollar Tree - have moved into new sites in the village center.

Fencing and bright orange construction mesh and barrels surround the construction area, where the 39,000-square-foot store will be expanded to 60,000 square feet.

Public input on maglev important, Townsend says

Acknowledging complaints about the proposed maglev path and the process used to promote the high-speed train, Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend on Tuesday night criticized handling of the proposal by state transportation officials, but did not abandon her support for the $3.5 billion project.

"I think it's important to get community input. Clearly, I think they [residents of Anne Arundel and Howard counties] have not been consulted," she said. "They have not been included early enough in the process."

But Townsend, who appeared before more than 300 people at the Howard County Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Clarksville, said "it's too early to tell" if opposition to the routes between Baltimore and Washington - or mistakes in presenting the project - are serious enough to kill it.

The political speeches did not reflect that controversy, however, as local Democrats congratulated themselves on winning control of Howard County's top offices four years ago, and vowed to expand their control in November.

15 agricultural acres set for preservation

Fifteen acres isn't a huge swath of land to preserve.

But in Howard County - where the gap between preservation dollars and development dollars is making it nearly impossible to convince farmers to forever forgo selling to builders - it's practically a coup.

Owners of the 15.3-acre property in the far western tip of the county are the first in 14 years to accept a conservation offer from the state agricultural preservation program, a streak Howard preservationists are relieved to see broken. Settlement is expected later in the year.

School enrollments may preclude development

Western Howard County would be closed to development for 2005 because of crowded elementary schools, according to preliminary school enrollment projections produced by school planners last week.

The new figures represent the latest attempt by county officials to predict school enrollments years in the future - part of a decade-old strategy for curbing classroom crowding in the fast-growing county by limiting homebuilding around the most crowded schools.

The enrollment charts will be submitted to the County Council this week and likely will be acted on in July.

Robey to use state funds to hire 4 teachers, 6 aides

Howard County Executive James N. Robey announced Thursday he is using just over $1 million in newly awarded state school construction money to further increase local school spending.

The money will mean the school board can hire four more special education teachers and six aides, including one teacher and one aide for the Cedar Lane school for disabled students, and another for the new Homewood school for troubled children, according to Deputy Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin.

It also reduces the $6 million gap between the school board's total request for next year and what Robey proposed spending in his $824 million budget, which is scheduled for a County Council vote this week.

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