Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

May 06, 2007

Put myth about Belmont to rest

One myth continues to be perpetuated in the discussion of the Belmont Conference Center: that Howard Community College intends to "create an additional campus" on the historic estate ("County, opponents vie over fate of Belmont," The Howard County Sun, April 29). Opponents frequently show photos of the mansion at the Catonsville campus of the Community College of Baltimore County and cry, "This will happen to Belmont."

Nothing could be further from the truth. Because of Belmont's historic easement, no building - I repeat, no building - can be constructed without the approval of the Maryland Historical Trust, a state-sponsored trust. To give its approval, the Trust must be satisfied that a building is needed for the economic viability of Belmont. HCC has stated unequivocally that it is committed to working with the Trust and abiding by its decisions.

This alone should put this myth to rest. But there is another reason. It is not in HCC's interest to create a busy campus. HCC's vision for Belmont is to operate a world-class conference center at Belmont, while providing a unique learning opportunity for HCC's hospitality and culinary students. Belmont's distinctive feature is its historic charm and solitude. Diminishing those features would take away Belmont's competitive advantage, which does not make business or aesthetic sense.

HCC has created a master plan for Belmont - with substantial community input - that shows possibilities for enhancing Belmont's legacy as an educational and cultural center. The Trust will be an active partner in helping to implement this master plan in a manner that is consistent with the easement. If the Trust decides not to approve something on the plan, then it will not be built. Since the master plan sets forth a creative, but respectful plan for Belmont, it does not make sense to prematurely remove a possibility before it is reviewed by the Trust.

All of Howard County can take great pride in the Belmont envisioned by HCC. Let's get beyond the myths and let it move forward!

Michael Davis Columbia

The writer is a member of the board of trustees of the Howard Community College Educational Foundation, the owner of Belmont, and is the attorney for that organization.

HCC has engaged in Belmont talks

Reading the article "County, opponents vie over fate of Belmont" (The Howard County Sun, April 29), one might get the impression that Howard Community College has resisted discussion with the community about its plans for the historic estate. As an HCC trustee who has been actively involved in such discussions, I can say that this impression is false.

Just in the past four months, HCC has engaged in at least a half-dozen intensive negotiating sessions with representatives of the Rockburn Land Trust, who have been the most vocal about their concerns regarding Belmont. Moderated by a respected member of the community, we have tried to talk through the issues and find resolutions. HCC is very willing to continue these sessions.

Prior to these focused negotiations, HCC gathered very substantial public input that led to formation of a master plan for Belmont. More than 30 meetings were held over a one-year period with community groups, local officials, historic groups, businesses, students, clients and local residents. A Web site was created to openly present HCC's thoughts about Belmont, which can be viewed at www.belmontcenter.com.

Belmont belongs to all of Howard County, and HCC fervently believes in hearing all perspectives. The result has been the formation of an overall vision for Belmont as an educational and cultural center that will preserve this historic treasure for many years to come.

James Truby Ellicott City

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