More discussions set on forming CA task force

Board orders panel to set goals on downtown-plan role

December 01, 2006|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,Sun reporter

The Columbia Association committee charged with seeing whether the organization should form a citizens task force to shape its role in the plans to develop downtown Columbia will have more discussions before presenting its findings to the board of directors for approval.

After tabling a motion to form the task force, the board ordered the planning and strategy committee to set goals for the task force and create qualifications for those interested in joining.

"We need more specifics as to what the composition of the task force will be and what kinds of experts should be on it, [as well as] what makes them an expert," said Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, chairwoman of the planning and strategy committee and board representative for Owen Brown.

Atkinson-Stewart said the committee will hold additional brainstorming sessions before presenting a motion to the board early next year.

The county, with the help of General Growth Properties Inc., the principal landowner in Columbia, has been sculpting plans for developing downtown into a bustling urban environment.

The county also appointed a focus group, consisting of local residents and businesses, to study the development plans and give recommendations that contributed to another draft expected to be unveiled next year.

Phil Marcus, board member representing Kings Contrivance and author of the motion to form the task force, has said such a panel would benefit the association because the members have a vested interest in downtown and the role of the homeowners association. Marcus has said that because Columbia has many residents who are experts in development, they should be on the panel.

During last week's board meeting, many members agreed with forming a task force, but some questioned a panel of experts because the county and General Growth Properties continue to use such experts in drafting plans.

"We don't need to reinvent the wheel," said Cynthia Coyle, board member representing Harper's Choice. "There is enough information out there already, and what we need to do is hear from the residents. That is what we should be interested in. The expert opinions are already out there; we don't need to go and form a panel of them."

Barbara L. Russell, board member representing Oakland Mills, echoed similar concerns.

"What I think has not been done is we have not really made an opportunity for the people of Columbia to have a forum to speak freely about what they have heard from the experts and to express what they want to see downtown," Russell said. "The most important people in this discussion are the ones that live in the community and around the downtown."

Patrick von Schlag, board member representing River Hill, said forming a task force immediately would be "premature," because the county is scheduled to unveil another draft plan.

"We need to be a bit patient," said Von Schlag, who said a task force would be more beneficial after the new draft plan is announced.

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