Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

November 29, 2009

Recession requires sacrifice from officials

[Re: "Small raise proposed for officials," Howard County edition, Nov. 22] This is an example of how some people won't tighten their belt until personally affected. The proposed raises are admittedly minuscule and will make little difference, if any, in take home pay - and it was extremely generous of these officials to recently donate portions of their salary to charity and back to the county. But this is exactly the point: We are in a severe recession with high unemployment of our citizens and this requires sacrifice on the part of those still employed and able to CONTROL government expenses. As to thanking them for the many hours of work (not at all unusual for anyone WORKING today) - a crisp official certificate of thanks could be printed, framed and handed to each. With regard to the comment of "falling behind" comparable salaries in other jurisdictions - service to one's community should come from the heart, and not from comparing your status to someone else. If $$$ are the stimulus, move over and allow a committed, dedicated citizen to take your place.

- Lew Rodgers, Fulton

Columbia redevelopment plan a positive vision

Council Bills 58 & 59 before the Howard County Council would allow a well-planned mix of residential, commercial, office, cultural and open space uses within the approximately 350-acre downtown area over a period of perhaps 30 years.

As a young community planner, some 40 years ago, I wanted to experience the "new town" environment and was able to purchase an affordable townhouse in Columbia. I can vividly recall seeing a scale model that showed a dense downtown development. That vision was never realized and today's planning concepts offer, in my opinion, a new and improved method of creating a downtown, mixed-use development.

The developer, General Growth Properties, in creating an updated vision for Columbia's downtown kept the original four goals developed by Jim Rouse and similarly hired well-respected consultants to provide a vision for what the area could became. The plan is also in keeping with the county's own year 2000 General Plan. After years of public discussion, development of the Downtown Columbia-A Community Vision, review and suggested modification by the citizen planning board, it is time to act.

The proposed increase in density would allow the creation of an exciting community amenity that would provide positive social, economic and environmental benefits to all of Howard County. The required phasing of development, adequate facilities requirements and other present and planned requirements would ensure that the final product will function properly and be an asset and not a liability to Columbia and Howard County.

The social benefits include creating an exciting gathering spot and improved cultural center, inclusion of affordable housing, along with a walking, biking and transit-friendly environment.

The economic benefits associated with the proposal noted in two recent studies show positive fiscal impacts to the community and would help attract needed investment resulting in jobs and taxes paid by commercial and employment uses. The residential component should also be attractive to seniors who, as a class and in general, require fewer services like schools and have above-average disposable income. As a member of this group and with an academic background in community planning, I find this proposal very attractive.

Regarding the environment, I would note that creating an environment where people can work, live and play reduces the need for automobile travel and encourages a healthier life style based on walking and biking. This is a "smart growth" site if there ever was one and offers an unparalled opportunity for creating a high-quality environment. One of the greatest environmental challenges to improved water quality in the Chesapeake Bay is stormwater runoff. When the present downtown was developed, stormwater requirements were primitive. There is an opportunity then to require the developer to retroactively upgrade all stormwater systems in the downtown area with commensurate environmental benefits. As a sidebar, I would note that the Paumier/ Slater/Columbia Association plan for Symphony Woods shows how a very attractive downtown park can be created as part of the overall plan.

I lived in Columbia for 25 years and have two sons that presently live in the community. I had the privilege of representing the west side of Columbia, including the downtown area, for five years on the Howard County Council. My only economic interest in writing this letter is that I think its development would be good for our tax base. On a personal note, I think the new downtown could be a very attractive amenity and, if I live long enough to see the plan implemented, a very desirable place to live.

- Paul Farragut, Ellicott City

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