Bent on shoehorning a mixed-use development into Clarksville/River Hill, an area already beset by high traffic volume, officials of the Ulman administration have put the cart before the horse and the Planning Board has called them on it.
Noting that officials have asked the County Council to add $400,000 for an engineering study and $600,000 for land acquisition simultaneously to the fiscal 2012 budget, Planning Board member Paul Yelder summed up the board's consensus.
"The land acquisition kind of threw me off a little," he told county planners during the board's Aug. 4 meeting. "It seems to me you've got the conclusion in place already. … From a public policy standpoint, it really compromises the credibility of the administration."
The board voted to recommend to the council that it not approve money for land acquisition for the Clarksville project until after a study of its feasibility and traffic implications is completed.
From political and practical standpoints, the council would do well to heed the board's suggestion.
Residents packed the hearing room to oppose the plan. Given that the area around the intersection of routes 108 and 32 has seen perhaps the biggest building boom in a county that's been booming nearly nonstop for decades, it's easy to see why.
Mixed-use development can be a valuable tool in stemming suburban sprawl, and the Clarksville project could yet prove to be a stroke of genius. But the people behind it have a whole lot more convincing to do before the Planning Board or the council can sign off on it in good conscience.