Howard Week

December 12, 2004

Wildlife sanctuary measure killed by the council

A bill that would have guaranteed the continued existence of Frisky's Wildlife and Primate Sanctuary in western Howard County was killed on an ironic 3-2 vote by the County Council on Monday night.

The deciding "no" vote was cast by newly appointed member Charles C. Feaga, a western county Republican who replaced the bill's sponsor, Allan H. Kittleman, who left the council in October to take his late father's seat in the state Senate.

"We felt very differently on it," Feaga said, adding that Kittleman had lobbied him late Monday to support a last-ditch compromise amendment supported by two Democrats, council Chairman Guy Guzzone, who represents North Laurel-Savage, and east Columbia's David A. Rakes.

The bill's death leaves Frisky's operator Colleen Layton and her supporters to continue a court fight over the West Friendship shelter.

The council also unanimously re-elected Guzzone chairman for an unprecedented third consecutive year.

Robey revives proposal for government complex

Howard County Executive James N. Robey has revived a plan he had shelved as too costly to build a large government complex for county offices and the Circuit Court in Ellicott City - this time through a private enterprise.

Robey announced Tuesday that the county will advertise this month for a commercial office development firm to devise a way to privately build and finance the buildings, which, unlike a 2000 proposal, would include a new courthouse. The complex could cost up to $100 million and provide up to 350,000 square feet and 900 parking spaces in one place, or split the office space into two locations near the existing county government center.

Financing likely would come from the sale of the county's five-story Gateway Building in Columbia and the Thomas Dorsey Building, a former Bendix warehouse off Route 108, and a lease-back arrangement with the developer, officials said.

Keep pavilion open-air, consultants tell panel

After months of debate, study and impassioned testimony, a panel appointed by the Howard County government indicated last week that the county may be interested in buying Merriweather Post Pavilion, but not as an enclosed, year-round facility.

That put the citizens panel - appointed by the county executive to study the issue - at odds with the offer by the former Rouse Co., which said during the summer it would sell the outdoor pavilion only if the buyer agreed to turn it into an indoor venue.

At a meeting Tuesday night , consultants hired by the county to examine the local entertainment industry and the feasibility of buying Merriweather gave the panel their initial report.

They concluded that Merriweather should not be enclosed and that the facility would be most viable and profitable as it now stands - a large amphitheater attracting concerts of popular music.

County ordered to pay adult store's court costs

A Howard County Circuit Court judge has ordered the county to pay the Pack Shack, an Ellicott City adult book and video store, $187,690 in court costs after the county lost a legal battle in trying to make the business relocate.

Judge James B. Dudley's ruling - which was filed Dec. 3 and mailed to lawyers Tuesday - awarded the business, on U.S. 40 near Normandy Woods Way, somewhat less than the $224,837 it had sought.

"It clearly vindicates my client's First Amendment rights," lawyer Howard J. Schulman, who represents the store, said when he learned of the ruling.

Dudley's ruling is the latest development in the nearly six-year legal battle that began after the county's attempt to restrict adult bookstores through an ordinance that the Maryland Court of Appeals declared unconstitutional last year.

School board rejects open-enrollment plan

Open enrollment at Marriotts Ridge High School will not be an option for underclassmen when the school opens next year, the Howard County Board of Education decided Thursday night.

In a unanimous vote, the board - with new members Diane Mikulis and Mary Kay Sigaty - resolved the last issue from a monthslong redistricting process.

Last month, the school board set new high school attendance areas to fill Marriotts Ridge in Marriottsville and relieve crowding at other schools. The school will open next fall with freshmen and sophomores.

Planning Board supports Turf Valley expansion

The proposed expansion of Turf Valley, the exclusive residential, golf course and resort development in western Howard County, won important backing Thursday from the county Planning Board.

In a series of votes, the board backed the developer, Mangione Family Enterprises, on three critical matters. It deferred action on a fourth.

The board supported changing zoning limits for grocery stores in planned golf course communities to 65,000 square feet from 18,000 square feet.

While technically leaving height restrictions unchanged at 40 feet, the board backed language that would permit condominiums to be built as high as 55 feet, as desired by the developer, if it was determined there would be no adverse affect.

Likewise, the board kept unchanged the restriction of 24 condo units per building, but approved language to allow up to 28 units, as Mangione would like, if the increase was determined not detrimental.

The board deferred action on the developer's request for higher density to build 128 units not now permitted, after closure of one of three golf courses at Turf Valley.

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