Howard Week

August 15, 2004

Change of venue granted in man's 3rd sex assault trial

A former Ellicott City ballet teacher convicted of sexually assaulting two of his students received so much publicity during trials in those cases that a third trial on similar charges should be moved to another county, a Howard circuit judge ruled Monday.

Jose Anibal Macedo's initial presumption of innocence and large base of support among other students and their parents have been replaced by two sets of felony convictions in cases that have had "prolonged exposure" in the media, said Howard Circuit Judge James B. Dudley.

With Macedo's third trial looming, "the tenor and the flavor of the [transfer] argument has changed," the judge said.

"Unlike the other cases, to me, this is different," said Dudley in granting a motion to move the case from Howard County.

Court workers are `fed up'; renovations on the way

After weeks of eight-hour days spent working in offices that smelled distinctly like a locker room - sweaty, musty and dirty-sock-like - some employees in the Howard circuit clerk's office were so frustrated recently that they talked about staging a sick-out.

"It got to the point the smell was still around. People were sick," said Katherine Beane, who is executive assistant to Clerk of the Circuit Court Margaret D. Rappaport. "We were just a bit fed up."

But after a weekend away, and with the air somewhat better, they shelved the idea.

The smell, ever-present employee health complaints and pervasive rain-induced leaks top the latest list of woes for the circuit courthouse - a building beset by complaints ranging from mold to crowding. But county officials say they hope a series of small-scale projects will alleviate some of the problems.

Renovations to Rappaport's space - including new carpeting, paint and lower cubicles to improve airflow - are imminent, and a roof replacement for the building is expected to go out to bid in a week or two.

Councilman, Rouse at odds over big-box stores

If the Rouse Co. moves to build a Home Depot or Wal-Mart on land near Merriweather Post Pavilion, at least one Howard County councilman said he will try to block the big-box development.

Howard County Councilman Ken Ulman said he is optimistic the county can work with Rouse on developing the 51-acre, crescent-shaped parcel that includes the parking area for the Columbia amphitheater. But Ulman said that if Rouse insists on building big-box stores, he will submit legislation that would limit the size of retail establishments in Town Center.

"Wal-Marts don't have a place in that community," said Ulman, a west Columbia Democrat. "I'm looking forward to see if the Rouse Co. and the county can work together.

"But I haven't lost any of the willingness to be ... tough if need be and introduce legislation if need be," he said.

Rouse plans for the site to include 800,000 square feet of office space and 400,000 square feet of retail space, which could incorporate big-box stores. A traffic impact study prepared for the company assumed the retail space would include a 150,000-square-foot home-improvement superstore and a 150,000-square-foot discount store.

Senior housing remains an issue in Waverly Woods

For years, Baltimore-area politicians and developers tried to avoid public hysteria over subsidized housing by supporting more benign projects such as apartments for seniors.

But that strategy is not working in Ellicott City, where some residents of the upscale Waverly Woods golf course development are up in arms about a proposed apartment house for moderate-income seniors.

Developers say the four-story, brick building resembles other senior developments in the county and insist that it would outclass the most expensive homes in the community - despite prices of more than $800,000 for single-family homes.

But nearly 200 residents who turned out in force wearing big "NO 102" stickers say they were misled and tricked by plans for the proposed 102-unit building near the community shopping center and golf course, though the developers say unfounded rumors about Section 8 federal rent subsidies are behind the uproar.

Move of Torahs today is new start for Temple Isaiah

For congregants of Temple Isaiah, the joy and anticipation of finally moving into their own building after 34 years is akin to that of a couple about to wed.

So it is fitting that when the congregation brings at least one of its four Torahs into its new facility in Fulton today, members will carry the sacred scrolls under a chuppah, or marriage canopy. Jewish tradition likens the Torah to a groom and the Jewish people to a bride.

"The relationship between God and the Jewish people is spoken of in terms of marriage and a covenantal relationship," said Rabbi Mark Panoff, spiritual leader of Temple Isaiah since 1986. "It is a new beginning for us. People are so proud [the site] turned out to be so beautiful. We're all very happy."

Congregants will alternate carrying each of the heavy Torahs as they walk from 8 a.m. to noon along the 8.2-mile route between the temple's former residence at the Oakland Mills Meeting House in Columbia and the new site.

A community open house will follow from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The building dedication is to be held Oct. 31.

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