Howard Week

April 11, 2004

Turf Valley road OK withheld; MDE seeks additional details

State environmental officials are withholding approval of a new road critical to building hundreds of homes at Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center in Ellicott City until owners provide the agency with additional details, including development plans for the 800-acre parcel.

Mangione Family Enterprises, which owns and operates Turf Valley, has applied for permission to construct the proposed "Resort Road" through wetlands in the western part of the property and across the Little Patuxent River, ultimately connecting to Marriottsville Road.

The Maryland Department of the Environment has given Mangione Family Enterprises until early next month to respond to seven requests or the permit application will be considered withdrawn, according to a March 26 letter.

Assessment-cap measure for Columbia advances

A state Senate committee approved legislation Wednesday that aims to provide financial relief to Columbia homeowners by imposing a 10 percent cap on rising property assessments in the planned community.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee unanimously approved the bill, drafted by Del. Shane E. Pendergrass. It was not amended.

House Bill No. 566 would limit the effect of rising state property tax assessments on the annual charge that the Columbia Association imposes on its property owners. The bill also would phase in assessment increases, which are based on property values, over three years, something the county does now. The Columbia Association now collects the charge based on a property's highest valuation each year, a requirement set by its covenants.

Pendergrass, a Howard County Democrat, proposed the legislation after assessments on east Columbia homes increased an average of 33.4 percent last year. Assessments in west Columbia rose an average 47.4 percent.

Violent crime jumps 18%, Howard police report

Violent crime in Howard County jumped 18 percent last year as the Police Department handled more assaults and robberies, but the overall crime rate declined slightly - by 3 percent - fueled by a drop in property crimes, police said.

Rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults increased last year while the number of homicides remained unchanged, at seven, according to police statistics released last week. Burglaries declined 11 percent, and thefts dropped 6 percent.

Motor vehicle thefts, which dipped to a five-year low in 2000, have since crept upward. The number of cars stolen increased 11 percent, to 680, last year, the figures showed.

Hobbit's Glen Golf Club set to reopen next month

When the Columbia Association was beginning its nine-month, $1.2 million renovation of Hobbit's Glen Golf Club, Mother Nature stepped in with other plans.

Forty-three days of rain and muddy conditions during the fall kept the course's greens from being rebuilt on time, delaying the project by more than a month. Seeding the greens was expected to take 45 days, but the task took nearly double that because of the weather.

The course is scheduled to open next month, but it will be postponed a few weeks from the original May 1 date. The back nine will open May 8, and the entire course is expected to be open by May 31.

Inmate indicted on charges of setting fire to jail cell

One of two men convicted of murder in the high-profile stabbing and choking death of 14-year-old Ashley Nicole Mason in November 2000 was indicted Wednesday on year-old arson charges.

Scott Jory Brill, 21, is accused of setting his jail cell on fire in the Howard County Detention Center on Dec. 14, 2002, hours after he was sentenced to life in prison but before he was transferred to the custody of the state Division of Correction, according to charging documents.

Although a detention center lieutenant filed paperwork to charge Brill the day of the fire, the former Columbia resident was not served with papers until February - after he wrote to Howard District Court officials to ask about any "pending warrants."

A Howard County grand jury returned a three-count indictment against Brill, charging him with first-degree arson, second-degree arson and reckless endangerment. The top arson charge carries a maximum 30-year penalty.

Elkridge woman denied growth-control exemption

An Elkridge woman will not be able to subdivide and sell one lot of her Montgomery Road property, the Howard County Council decided Wednesday night.

"In this case, I just don't believe all her options have been exhausted," said Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, an Elkridge Republican.

Marjorie Gonce, who will turn 80 this year, petitioned the council to grant her an exemption to county growth controls, which dictate the number of homes that can be built each year.

Under current restrictions, she would have to wait until 2009 to subdivide about a half-acre of her 5-acre tract. The exemption would have set a precedent as the first granted under new regulations restricting "infill development" - new construction in existing neighborhoods.

When they passed legislation last year, council members left in a provision to allow property owners experiencing economic hardship to petition the council for a one-lot exemption.

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