Letters to the Editor


August 22, 2004

Opposition explained in Waverly Woods

The recent news reports give the impression that the residents at Waverly Woods oppose senior housing. The residents oppose doubling the size of the building from 61 units to 102 units while NOT increasing the size of the building lot.

Since gated communities will be added to Waverly Woods along Marriotsville Road and Route 99, there is room for the 61 additional senior units to be built inside these new developments. This would give seniors the choice of living in a gated community, if they desire.

Janet Stringer

Waverly Woods

Sense of community lost in redistricting

I was intrigued by your article on the Howard County Schools redistricting process in the August 1st Sun. Since my neighborhood is involved in the present redistricting, I attended one of the redistricting meetings. Initially, I was somewhat shocked that our neighborhood was parceled up into different middle and high school districts, even though the children have grown up together, attended the same elementary school, and can bicycle to each others' houses without crossing major roads. Then I learned that I really don't live in a neighborhood. I live in a polygon.

Howard County, it seems, is divided into several hundred districts they call polygons. Our neighborhood alone has four such polygons. Each polygon has its school scores, its socioeconomic stats, and its racial population marked out. When redistricting occurs, non-elected officials slide around the polygons so that they fit in school map grid. It's like a giant board game. Communities and neighborhoods mean nothing in the game. Numbers and statistics drive everything.

So, now I know that I am not part of a large neighborhood. I'm part of polygon 152. It's not a bad polygon. I walked around its perimeter the other night, making sure I could distinguish my real neighbors from people who I used to call neighbors but who actually live elsewhere in the grid. I was happy to know that some of my friends still live in my polygon. A lot of trees and paths are in our part of the grid. We even have a playground or two.

Yesterday my son wanted to bike to one of his friend's houses. It's just down a quiet sidewalk a half mile away, he said. I told him no. It's two polygons away, and that seemed much too far for a nine year old to be riding. Besides, the polygon in which my son's friend lived has been districted to another middle school, one in which a higher percentage of kids pass the standardized tests than at our middle school. I had to teach my son a hard lesson in life. "People from polygons like that," I told him, "don't necessarily want to mingle with people from our polygon. Maybe it's best if you just hang around with kids in our own statistical domain."

I am thankful for the Howard County Board of Education for showing me my place. I used to live in a thriving community comprised of Dorsey Hall, Gray Rock, and Dunloggin. Children played together, and parents developed close bonds to each other.

But now I realize that close-knit communities such as mine are fantasies. I live in polygon 152. I am defined by my statistics. I am surrounded by an artificial border that severs my kids from former neighbors and friends. That is our fate in Howard County. I suppose at least I know where I stand.

Andy Lazris

Polygon 152(aka Dorsey Hall, Columbia)

Time to end special tax credits

The Columbia Association (CA) offers a 25% discount for new 2-year memberships in response to plans for a Wal-Mart-sized health club in east Columbia, one mile from the CA Supreme Sports Club. CA is to spend an additional $1.5 million in renovations. Rob Goldman, the Association Vice President for Sport and Fitness, states, "This is an investment in ensuring that the revenue stream of the corporation continues. By doing all these things ... we will save the corporation a considerable amount of money ... " The CA shows a competitive concern that a corporation should have.

If the CA acts like a corporation, they should be treated like one. They should not be receiving Real Property tax credits or Personal Property tax credits from Howard County. The historical justification for tax credits to help establish Columbia is no longer sufficient reason to continue this subsidy practice 40 years later, nor indefinitely.

The Maryland Code 9-315 titled Howard County states "The governing body of Howard County may grant, by law, a property tax credit imposed on"-and then follows a list of requirements. The Howard County Code Sec. 20.108 tax credits for community associations list the procedure. The Columbia Association and its villages are the only recipients of this credit.

Millions of dollars in tax revenue has been lost since credits have been given and in the future more millions will be lost that could be used for schools, police, fire and other needs.

There are also synergistic benefits. Financial support for the county will add fiscal restraint to the CA and provide justification for the six-figure salaries and benefits which exceed Howard County governance.

More funds would become available to the county Department of Recreation and Parks which has a total budget of less than $10 million compared to CA's budget of more than $50 million. Affordable recreation facilities would become available for all county residents.

The County Director of Finance has a fiduciary responsibility to evaluate this source of income and the County Council has the financial obligation to act upon the recommendations.

Donald Dunn

Ellicott City

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