Speakout

July 16, 2006

THE ISSUE: -- A traffic study has concluded that central Columbia's roads would not be able to absorb much more traffic without producing severe congestion, though a county-sponsored community design session last year recommended thousands more homes, offices and shops in the next 30 years. Do you think the county should deny permission for any but the minimum number of homes and businesses allowed by current zoning? What do you think the right number of homes and businesses would be?

No copies, please, of Bethesda

A great deal of time and money has been spent on a "plan" for the redevelopment of downtown Columbia without knowing what our roads could bear. After months of waiting, we have finally learned that the county's traffic experts report that, even with the proposed new roads included, only 31 percent of the suggested development could be accommodated.

The Department of Planning and Zoning continues to say that this proposed plan came out of the charrette that was held last fall. Research shows definitively that there is little resemblance between what more than 300 people visualized on that first day of the charrette and the plan that has evolved. For instance, early in the charrette week county consultants presented a chart that included valid community input that read, "Keep Density LOW." And the consultant included LOW in "all caps."

I'm looking forward to the continuing development of Jim Rouse's "Next America," but not as an old-fashioned copy of Bethesda.

Lloyd Knowles Columbia

We must work out what is possible

The right amount of homes and businesses to make downtown Columbia work is based on many factors. We were asked to dream, and now we find out only a third of what the county thought our dream was is possible. We must work out what is possible downtown before we start dreaming again or it will be just a dream.

Brian England Columbia

Cap development at current levels

Downtown development should remain capped at current levels until such time as the roadways and other infrastructure can support additional density.

No one should be surprised at the traffic-study findings, or the lack of an effective planning process. Similar developmental pressure has caused severe problems in the eastern county for years; now it has come to downtown Columbia.

Why did we spend $250,000 for a charrette without first providing the participants basic information on limitations posed by the downtown infrastructure? Until this traffic study, Mr. Ulman [County Councilman Ken Ulman] was taking credit for the downtown planning process, promoting it as the model to be used for the rest of the county. Now he is quoted as saying building up to 5,500 more residential units has always seemed "ludicrous" given that the county has no mass transit system.

One final thought: if county officials promised increased density in their discussions to save Merriweather, will restricting downtown development put Merriweather back on the chopping block?

Wes Allen Ellicott City

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