Howard Week

March 14, 2004

Board of Appeals rejects proposed housing for seniors

Howard County's Board of Appeals has denied a proposal to build 30 homes for active seniors in Ellicott City, describing the project as "shoehorned" onto the property.

The project became a development lightning rod, prompting changes in legislation that promotes the construction of housing to accommodate Howard County's predicted senior boom, as well as further study of the demand for such housing.

Kimberly Homes sought conditional-use permission to build 30 attached homes on a 6.9-acre, L-shaped property off Frederick Road in Ellicott City. However, because of environmental constraints, the homes were clustered on a smaller area of the parcel.

Neighbors of the property appealed the decision of Thomas P. Carbo, the county hearing examiner, who approved the project in June, stating that it was in harmony with Howard County's General Plan. Two staff reports by the Department of Planning and Zoning recommended denial of the petition.

David A. Carney, attorney for Kimberly Homes, said the developers have corrected problems by adding parking spaces and changing the location of certain houses.

CA board is still split on measure to cap levy

Proposed state legislation that would impose a 10 percent cap on rising property assessments in Columbia is continuing to drive a wedge between the Columbia Association's board members.

Five board members are accusing other directors of spreading misinformation by claiming the homeowners association does not need state legislation to place a cap on rising assessments.

"It seems to me that some of the members are operating in La-La Land," board member Barbara Russell said.

Russell and four other board members - Joshua Feldmark, David Hlass, Phil Marcus and Wolfger Schneider - have written a three-page statement outlining why the association cannot use an assessment cap without the approval of HB 566, sponsored by Howard Del. Shane E. Pendergrass. The bill would limit the impact of skyrocketing state property tax assessments on the association's annual charge imposed on property owners, as well as phase in the change in assessment over three years.

Engineering work starts on Route 32 project

Standing at a Glenelg intersection last week, state transportation officials stressed the need to fund improvements for one of the most congested and dangerous crossroads on Route 32.

Engineering work is getting under way for an interchange at Burntwoods Road in Glenelg, said State Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen. If the project is included in the state budget, construction could begin in the spring of 2007, he said.

The $20 million to $25 million project calls for construction of a bridge over Route 32 connecting Burntwoods and Ivory roads. The project would eliminate traffic signals at Burntwoods and Ten Oaks roads and create service roads on Ten Oaks and Pfefferkorn roads to provide access to Route 32.

County may pay to widen segment of Route 108

Howard County officials are considering paying for widening about a mile of state-owned Route 108, just west of U.S. 29, to alleviate what they consider unsafe congestion.

The road, which skirts Columbia's northern and western edge, has become the main route between U.S. 29, the county's main thoroughfare, and hundreds of homes and businesses that have been built as the planned town and its environs developed.

County Executive James N. Robey said that "108 has been a major route of choice for lots of people" in Montgomery and Baltimore counties, as well as Howard, and he would like to extend the four-lane portion of the road from west of Columbia Road, ending west of Centennial Lane.

Background checks failed to find warrant

Two background checks conducted by a private company on a former Elkridge volunteer firefighter failed to turn up a 17-year-old grand-theft felony warrant in Florida that would have disqualified him from serving, according to Howard County fire department officials and Florida law enforcement records.

The former firefighter - Louis F. Diegel, 41, of Elkridge - volunteered at the station on and off for about nine years, but was voted out last month because of inactivity, Elkridge fire officials said.

Chief Joseph Slavotinek, who heads the Elkridge Volunteer Fire Department, said that Diegel was voted out once before for inactivity and reapplied. He said that background checks were done twice on Diegel.

"We have a company that does the background checks for us, and evidently they didn't pick it up," Slavotinek said.

Diegel has been wanted in Okeechobee County, Fla., since 1987 on a charge of grand theft - a count that applies when something with a value of $300 or more is stolen, said Sgt. William Markham, who works for that county's Sheriff's Department. But because it is so old, the warrant likely will be tossed out by the state's attorney's office, the sheriff's office said.

Robey weighs extending domestic-partner benefits

Howard County Executive James N. Robey is nearing a decision on whether to extend employment benefits to county workers in same-sex or unmarried life partnerships.

"Within 90 days, I will make a decision," Robey said last week, noting that "the fiscal impact is insignificant" because of the few employees likely to be affected.

The two issues remaining, Robey said, involve how to ensure the right people get the benefits and whether the change would require legislation or merely an executive order.

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