Howard Week

January 04, 2004

Mediation center at HCC would like more business

Tu Van Trieu has seen a smooth transition since moving into new offices at Howard Community College's Instructional Lab Building, but she would like to see more conflict.

As director of the Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center at HCC, she would like more people to bring their issues to her door, where staff members and volunteers can help parties reach agreements.

The center was established a decade ago as an independent nonprofit organization spun off from the group Community Building in Howard County. But as it begins its third year since reorganizing as a department of the college, two staff members, Trieu and program director Charles Tracy, are finding it takes time to build a caseload.

3 close to buying former Caplan's Department Store

Three Ellicott City businessmen are close to purchasing a landmark building that for more than 80 years housed Caplan's Department Store, an anchor on Main Street since the family business opened in 1895.

The buyers - Dr. Bruce Taylor, Jared Spahn and Donald R. Reuwer Jr. - plan to restore the facade of the structure, where the Caplan family ran a thriving retail business and lived above the store. Taylor, Spahn and Reuwer expect to complete the deal this month.

In addition to renovating the building, the businessmen hope to build apartments on a vacant lot behind it that extends to St. Paul Street, said Spahn, president of Old Town Construction on Main Street. He is also president of the Ellicott City Business Association.

Ulman measure targets roadside commerce

The intrusion of commerce onto Howard County's roadways is up for examination - and possible elimination.

A bill slated for introduction tomorrow night in the County Council by Councilman Ken Ulman would ban the use of paved road shoulders for unregulated commerce, including selling flowers, snowballs, hot dogs or produce, or collecting money for charity.

The bill, first introduced in September and changed to allow four exemptions a year for groups such as county volunteer fire companies, will be subject to new scrutiny at a public hearing Jan. 20 and a vote Feb. 2. Ulman, a west Columbia Democrat, said the measure is intended to improve public safety and prevent damage to stationary businesses.

Developer seeks final OK for Ellicott City project

Ellicott City homeowners on Church Road have lost every battle in the past three years to block construction of 15 homes in their historic neighborhood. From Howard County's Planning and Zoning Board to the Board of Appeals to Circuit Court, this tenacious group of about 10 residents could not stop the development.

Now Michael L. Pfau, the developer and president of Trinity Homes Inc., is asking the county's Historic District Commission to give the final stamp of approval so he can begin construction on the Woods at Park Place. And the Church Road residents are right behind him, with a last chance to weigh in on the development - the first new subdivision in the county's two designated historic districts.

Although they know the development is inevitable, the residents want the houses to blend in with their century-old homes that sit back from the narrow, winding road.

County gets grant to start scaled-back drug court

Howard County officials are moving forward with plans to start a scaled-back version of an adult drug court in Howard District Court, thanks to more than $40,000 in federal block grant funds.

The money will enable the county to pay the part-time salaries of a clinical case manager and a drug court coordinator - jobs that will allow the new court to handle a limited caseload of 10 to 15 defendants, starting in June, said Howard District Judge Louis A. Becker III, a member of the planning team.

Although not nearly enough to fund a full-scale drug court, the grant can help the county solve problems in its program on a small scale before any expansion, officials said.

Councilmen submit changes to rezoning bill

While residents were making their New Year's resolutions, Howard County councilmen considered changes that will affect the county for the next decade - and are legally binding.

Members of the County Council submitted amendments to the comprehensive rezoning bill by Wednesday's 2 p.m. filing deadline. The council will hear testimony on amendments to the bill, which details zoning changes to more than 3,000 acres, at a public hearing Jan. 20. If no new amendments are introduced, members could vote on the bill at their legislative session Feb. 2.

It is all part of the rezoning process, undertaken every 10 years to rethink the future of development within rapidly growing Howard County.

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