Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

June 24, 2007

Halt public debate; build the tower

As we celebrate Columbia's 40-year history, we also look forward to the possibilities of a vibrant Town Center, rich with activities for people of all ages.

According to the Howard County Planning Board, there is "no public good" to be served by the proposed zoning regulation amendments aimed at derailing the Plaza Residences.

In a public work session June 7, Planning Board members unanimously rejected proposed zoning regulation amendments No. 79 and No. 83. If adopted, the amendments could limit the height of buildings in Columbia and affect previously approved projects under appeal.

The volunteer board, appointed by the Howard County executive, is empowered to make recommendations to the Howard County Council about proposed legislation. It will recommend that the proposed amendment to limit the height of buildings in Columbia be withdrawn by its sponsor, council member Mary Kay Sigaty of District 4.

The Planning Board also unanimously voted to support the Department of Planning and Zoning recommendation regarding zoning regulation amendment No. 83, advising rejection of the proposed amendment that would require all projects to submit to new legislation, irrespective of previous approvals or status of development, if the project's approval is appealed.

At the second public hearing held by the Planning Board on May 24, 26 people testified against the proposed amendments, and nine people testified in support. At the hearing April 17, 26 people testified against the proposed amendments, and 17 people testified in support. Opponents of the proposed legislation outnumbered supporters 2 to 1, and their perspectives were more numerous, too.

Those testifying against the proposed legislation came from all parts of the community: those who want to make their home in the Plaza Residences; young family members looking for a more vibrant downtown; professional architects and homebuilders advocating design freedom; Smart Growth supporters and affordable-housing proponents noting the need for verticality and density in future development in Town Center; new entrepreneurs and established business leaders seeking fairness from the county processes and policies; and residents looking for opportunities for engagement in public spaces created for the community and calling for creative new solutions.

Both amendments are bad for the Plaza Residences, and they are bad for Columbia. As the Planning Board members discussed, we do not need height restrictions. The county has the opportunity to review plans and can impose height limits on specific projects before approving them. No public purpose is served by imposing an arbitrary limit on the height of buildings in Columbia.

This approved development has been held up long enough. It is time to stop the public debate and move on with the project.

Del Karfonta Ellicott City

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

Thank you, backers of after-prom parties

The PTA Council of Howard County thanks all those in our community who contributed to the success of our county high school after-prom gatherings. The safety of all our children is a concern of our entire community. The council would like to especially thank those who contributed to all 12 after-prom celebrations: Mark Mangus of Liberty Mutual, the Howard County school system, Allen Johnson of Imagine That Photography Studio and the Columbia Association. Their tangible demonstration of support helped make safe, alcohol-free and drug-free celebrations a reality for students at all of our county's high schools.

Mangus, of Liberty Mutual, donated to each after-prom party $1,000 in cash, $300 in gift cards for door prizes, as well as the option of having a wrecked car displayed on each high school campus as a reminder for students to drive responsibly. Additionally, he made arrangements and paid for two high schools to receive a demonstration of the Jaws of Life hydraulic tools, showing students at those high schools how victims are extricated from a crashed vehicle. The Howard County school system donated the service of four security guards at each after-prom celebration. Johnson, of Imagine That Photography Studio, donated a photography package worth $285, which was used as a door prize at each after-prom gathering. The Columbia Association donated facility passes and coupons to each after-prom party worth $156. Those donations were used as after-prom door prizes.

Many thanks to these donors for their generous commitment to help keep our teens safe. We look forward to a continued tradition of community support of helping provide safe after-prom celebration options for our high schools.

Mary Jane Barbato-Grauso

Mary Ellen Creasy

Barbato-Grauso is president of PTA Council of Howard County; Creasy is the after-prom chairwoman, PTA Council of Howard County.

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