Howard Week

July 28, 2002

Neighbors favor more neighbors in zoning issue

The developer wants a zoning change and others don't - a saga as old as the suburbs. This time, though, the time-worn roles are getting a twist.

The Howard County planning department opposes a request to rezone a parcel in Elkridge even as neighbors line up to cheer the proposal, which calls for active-senior housing instead of office buildings.

County planners believe the land, near Interstate 95 and Route 100, is better suited for commercial development than some of the office-complex parcels nearby.

Howard Resneck, the developers' project manager, argues that the area feels more residential than was originally anticipated, and the site, nearly surrounded by Timbers at Troy Golf Course, would be attractive to older adults.

Bucking zoning trends, four neighborhood groups are on board with the developers' plan, even though it would mean several hundred new neighbors.

Latino, black communities seek to heal rift, distrust

After the body of Antonio Ayala was found in a wooded area in Columbia's Long Reach village in late May, a rumor started in the Latino community that a black man was responsible for the killing.

Ayala's three Latino roommates were arrested last month on charges they had beaten the 33-year-old lawn worker to death after an argument. But leaders in the black and Latino communities said the rumor was a sign of the growing rift between the two groups.

To ease the tension, pastors of several Howard County Latino and black churches held a gathering Friday in Long Reach Village Center. "You may say you like everyone ... but to get out of your comfort zone is the only time you can prove it," the Rev. Fiifi Pentsil, pastor at the Action Worship Center in Columbia, told about 70 people who attended the event.

U.S. 1 redevelopment planning report finished

Now comes the hard part. That's what Howard County politicians and a group of volunteers are saying about efforts to clean up and redevelop U.S. 1.

The volunteers, known as the Route 1 Corridor Task Force, finished the second phase of a two-year report this month, recommending that the county establish more bus routes and commercial and residential zones along U.S. 1. While many praised the 50-page report as an important planning tool, most say that the true work of redeveloping U.S. 1 lies in the future, after this fall's County Council elections.

Volunteers hope their two years of work will not fall by the wayside after Election Day.

Projected budget debt appears to be shrinking

Howard County's projected budget debt appears to be shrinking as a County Council divided along partisan lines prepares to vote on a related issue - a Republican-proposed charter change on replenishing the county's Rainy Day Fund.

Meanwhile, the council worked out changes in a bill proposing higher animal nuisance fines at a work session late Tuesday in Ellicott City.

The original animal nuisance bill called for sharply higher fines for complaints, but amendments discussed Tuesday likely will change that before a final vote tomorrow, the council's last meeting until September.

Elections board official gets cake, complaints

Still fighting state fines from ethics violations in a previous job, Howard County's elections board administrator, Robert J. Antonetti Sr., is facing a new test - a potentially critical performance evaluation from the elections board president.

Despite an ice cream cake and congratulations offered Antonetti on his 66th birthday at Monday's board meeting, the Rev. Roland L. Howard Sr., elections board president, said he is not happy with the administrator on two counts.

Antonetti's continuing legal fight to avoid paying fines in a case that has been decided by the Court of Appeals - Maryland's highest court - "doesn't look good for Howard County, that we're having all this ruckus," Howard said.

In addition, Howard said, he is upset about the hiring of several temporary board employees this year without the positions being advertised. He refused to elaborate.

Preservationists lament Ellicott City development

A large swath of Ellicott City land once owned by Declaration of Independence signer Charles Carroll is headed for development, and preservationists are bemoaning the lost conservation opportunity, saying neither the county nor the state is aggressively trying to save environmental gems.

The 306-acre parcel, just north of the huge tract of preserved land known as the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area, is expected to be subdivided into lots for 94 expensive homes.

The land, known as Benedict Farm, is being developed by Toll Brothers and Carroll family descendants.

The family's Doughoregan Manor estate was once 10,000 acres - twice the size of Elkridge - but is now about 2,000 acres. Thousands of Ellicott City and western Columbia residents live on former Carroll land.

Social Services office vandalized, robbed

The state Department of Social Services office in Howard County was closed Thursday after it was vandalized and robbed overnight, authorities said.

A security guard noticed a broken window at the facility, in the 7100 block of Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia, about 7 a.m. Thursday and notified authorities, according to Howard County police.

When they arrived, police discovered that someone had entered the building and "pretty much trashed the place," said Cpl. Lisa Myers, a department spokeswoman.

Police knew of no motive and had no suspects, Myers said.

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