Howard Week

April 20, 2003

Rouse to petition for more Columbia residential units

The Rouse Co. will petition Howard County to add more than 2,100 residential units to Columbia with many reserved for Town Center to make it a "community that's vibrant, having activity around the clock," said Dennis Miller, the development company's vice president and general manager of Columbia.

Miller told the Columbia Council that within about a week he will be asking the county for permission to develop the planned community to the maximum density allowed by law.

"The [county's] general plan is very clear. ... Downtown should be developed," Miller said Thursday night.

Incentives might help revitalize U.S. 1 corridor

Councilmen Guy Guzzone and Christopher J. Merdon, who each represent about a third of the U.S. 1 corridor, said they will file legislation shortly that would add 250 residential units to the annual county building cap of 1,500 units a year, earmarked for U.S. 1 revitalization projects with a mix of businesses and apartments. Without that change, "it's too uncertain" for property owners, said Merdon, an Ellicott City Republican. "We need to provide them with incentives."

"This special purpose is really just to encourage the commercial growth" along the corridor in line with the county's redevelopment plan, said Guzzone, a North Laurel/Savage Democrat.

Funeral home business to expand into county

An abandoned house on Guilford Road marks the spot of what will soon be a funeral home and a memorial garden complete with a koi pond.

Baltimore's Howell Funeral Home will open its second location, near U.S. 1 in Savage, next year to become the county's first African-American-owned funeral home. Construction is expected to begin in the fall, and it is scheduled to be complete in January.

Willie E. Howell Jr. owns the business with his brother, Brian, and two sisters.

Council chamber to get yet another boost

After spending nearly a half-million dollars to raise and level the floor in the Howard County Council chamber and thus lower the high, intimidating dais the five members sat behind, the council is spending a bit more -- to jack the dais up again.

It seems that eliminating the old chamber's tiered, stadium seating -- long a goal of advocates for the handicapped -- made the room so level that the council members couldn't be seen from much of the public seating, and vice versa.

The council is spending another $3,500 to raise both the platform under their seats, and the desktop in front of them 6 inches.

Future of busy road in Clarksville debated

People gathered Tuesday to ponder the future of a once-rural road -- a highway that now carries more than 18,000 vehicles a day past gas stations, car dealerships and fast-food joints.

Some people are still astonished by how quickly change came to Route 108 in Clarksville, propelled by improvements to the intersection with Route 32 and by Columbia's final village, River Hill.

"There are improvements that can be and should be made," said County Councilman Ken Ulman, a west Columbia Democrat who organized the public meeting. "I think it's an area that really has a lot of potential."

Citizens panel agrees on uses for Blandair

A group of Howard County residents broadly agreed last week on the best uses for Blandair, the 300-acre wilderness in the core of Columbia.

The citizens committee, which is planning the park-to-be, voted unanimously to include space for athletic fields, picnic areas, pavilions, forest and wetland preserves, trails, a children's garden, nature center and playground, and to retain a buffer of land around a cluster of historic buildings.

The Blandair Committee also agreed that access should be provided to both sides of the park from Route 175 and that a portion of Oakland Mills Road should be closed so that drivers won't cut through.

Parties take nontraditional sides in funding battle

Some of Howard County's toughest budget battles have been overspending for schools, but the latest has an interesting twist. Two traditionally conservative Republicans are urging more borrowing to speed construction of a 12th high school while Democrats favor delay and fiscal conservatism.

The debate partly echoes a fractious fight this year when state legislators from Howard brushed aside County Executive James N. Robey's proposal to increase the county tax on real estate sales and use the money to fund $215 million in school construction with bonds that would be paid off over 20 years.

The debate over whether the $48 million high school opens in 2005 or later could become more contentious and partisan with revenues tight and more state budget cuts possible.

Citizen planners propose a zoning solution

Howard County's five citizen planners jumped into a contentious Columbia rezoning case last week and offered an idea they hope will mollify everyone.

The county's professional planners from the Department of Planning and Zoning had recommended that two sections of land in Dorsey's Search be rezoned, prompting an uproar in the community.

On 8.3 acres at Old Annapolis and Columbia roads, the planning department recommended a zone that would allow 15 apartments an acre. On 4.5 acres at Columbia Road and Route 108, the department suggested "planned office research" zoning (POR), which permits offices and senior housing.

"Why not make the whole thing POR?" suggested board member Linda Dombrowski.

"That might be the right answer," acknowledged Steven M. Johns, a county planner.

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