Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

October 09, 2005

Columbia needs citizens' input

Beneath a typically suburban veneer, Columbia is a unique community.

Unlike most other cities, which were founded on the needs of commerce or the whims of developers, the foundation of our community is a set of guiding principles that coalesced into an ambitious vision. Based on his experiences and exceptional foresight, James Rouse envisioned a community that is inclusive, instead of exclusive; that integrates life's essentials instead of relegating them to the fringes or ignoring them entirely; that connects instead of alienates; and that fosters growth instead of complacency. From this foundation, our community was born, and will be reborn. Only this time, we must provide the vision.

Though ostensibly a planning exercise, the upcoming charrette [Oct. 15-22] is only superficially about development. More fundamentally, it is a discussion of community - specifically, how we define our community and what purpose we believe it should serve in our lives. Should it be a place for us to rest our heads for the night in between commutes? Should it be a safe, quiet hamlet where we can insulate ourselves from unwanted changes and unpleasant realities? Or should it, as James Rouse said, "uplift, inspire, stimulate and develop the best in people?" These are not questions anyone can answer individually. They are questions we must answer collectively.

Much consternation has followed the various development proposals for downtown. Some of it warranted, some not. To this point, however, the conception of these plans has been solely the responsibility of General Growth, once the Rouse Company, leaving for citizens the noble, if unenviable, task of understanding and critiquing pages of legal justifications and procedural codes.

Thankfully, the collective will of a dedicated group of individuals successfully poked holes in assumptions and arguments over traffic counts, pupil generation ratios, density increases, and the like. In these adversarial situations, such tactics were all we had at our disposal to stop ill-conceived plans from gaining approval.

The charrette, on the other hand, places full responsibility on us. The success or failure of the process and the resulting master plan depends on our input, our ideals, and most importantly, our will to see it to fruition.

Like many others, I am not sure how to prepare for or what to expect from the charrette. Nonetheless, my hopes are high, as I know my convictions and passion are shared by many in this community.

However, it is essential that we recognize the distinction between what has come before and what lies ahead. While it is important that we keep an eye on the details, it is equally if not more important that we not lose focus on that which has made our community what it is: principles.

The power has shifted. The vision is ours.

Ian Kennedy

Columbia

In support of board taking land for school

After three unsuccessful attempts to rezone land needed by the Board of Education for an access road for the new, sorely needed northeastern elementary school, Christopher Pippen is making his last attempt to reap financial rewards. However, in this case, it will be at our children's expense.

Historically, the Montgomery Road Citizens for Responsible Growth has successfully defeated Pippin's attempts to rezone the north side of Montgomery Road from residential to commercial in 1998; again in 2001 when he proposed a Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse; and finally in 2004 during Comprehensive Rezoning.

I say that the time has come now to say "enough is enough" - that is why I support the Board of Education's action to condemn the property on Montgomery Road for the new elementary school.

Michael E. Wallman

Ellicott City

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