Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

May 13, 2007

Support the plan for Belmont

One item in County Executive Ken Ulman's proposed fiscal year 2008 budget has the makings of a legacy.

The county executive is supporting Howard Community College's plan to run a successful conference center on the Belmont estate in Elkridge and use the center as a lab school for hospitality and culinary students.

HCC is a highly respected institution with a solid record of integrity and excellence. It has lived up to its mission to serve the greater good of Howard County.

Under the college's capable stewardship, many good things will happen. The county will continue to have a distinctive conference center that has been operating for many years. Students will learn high standards of hospitality and culinary management. And revenue will be generated to help preserve the rich history of the 18th-century manor house and estate.

Colleges can provide legacies for their communities. A vibrant and protected Belmont with a historical and educational component will be a legacy that will benefit the college, the business community and individual citizens for many years to come.

I urge the County Council to join the county executive in supporting HCC and Belmont.

Del Karfonta

The writer is chairman of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce.

An unorthodox method of response

I read with interest James Truby's letter to the editor in the Howard Sun ("HCC has engaged in Belmont talks," May 6) that discusses the college's interest in negotiations with representatives of the Save Belmont coalition formed by Rockburn Land Trust. Mr. Truby has represented Howard Community College, the manager of Belmont, in these negotiations, and Michael Davis has represented the Howard Community College Educational Foundation, the owner of Belmont.

As a participant in these negotiations, I offer the following comments.

There have been six negotiation meetings, beginning in December 2006. The most recent meeting was on March 27. Despite our requests that several dates be scheduled in advance, the college and foundation declined to schedule more than one at a time. The college and foundation have yet to bring a proposal to the table.

On April 12, the mediator sent a written draft proposal, as a starting point, and asked each party to respond whether they wished to continue. Rockburn Land Trust's representatives responded within a week that they were willing to continue. The response of the college and foundation took three weeks and came via Mr. Truby's letter to the editor. My observation is that the negotiations had stalled.

Despite the unorthodox method chosen for their response, I'm pleased that the college and foundation are willing to continue negotiations. I think it critical at this time that representatives of Maryland Historical Trust and Department of Natural Resources be at the table.

Burnet H. Chalmers Elkridge

The writer is an immediate neighbor to Belmont and a founder and board member of the Rockburn Land Trust.

Backing college's plan for Belmont

As the owner of AIDA Bistro & Wine Bar in Howard County, I am writing in support of Howard Community College's plan to use the Belmont Conference Center as a hospitality and culinary lab school.

My reason is simple: It's all about the students. Howard County is on the brink of producing top-tier culinary professionals, as evidenced by the high school team that recently took fifth place in the National Pro-Start competition. We need to nurture these budding young chefs and managers and keep them in Howard County. The first-class program envisioned by HCC at Belmont will do just that.

My experience during the past two years as Howard County chapter president of the Restaurant Association of Maryland reinforces the need to educate, prepare and increase the pool of future skilled culinary professionals. As the county's restaurant and hotel business continues to boom, the demand for the highest levels of quality and service that customers in Howard County expect will only increase. (And it's not just about you and I having a nice dinner out.)

A culture of culinary excellence is critical to economic development and to the support of our future culinary professionals. HCC is known nationally for its innovation and excellence. HCC needs to be a steward for these students and for Belmont, and its plan is a necessity for meeting this urgent need in our community.

Joe Barbera Ellicott City

HCC can be trusted to do what's right

Last Sunday, The Sun ran a letter from a trustee of Howard Community College about the Belmont Conference Center, and the letter cited a Web site (www.belmontcenter.com) about the college's plans for Belmont. I have visited the Web site, and it does contain a great deal of information.

I think HCC has a wonderful plan for this historic estate. The college sees Belmont as a "historical, cultural and educational resource for the entire region," and I think it's time that Belmont is discovered and appreciated by the community for the beautiful treasure that it is.

I know there are some people who are concerned that HCC's plans may detract from the historical aspects of Belmont, but the college seems to highly respect the history and sees it as an asset. And what good is an elegant 18th-century house if no one can experience it. I think HCC can be trusted to do what's best for the community.

Caroline Sherman Columbia

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