10 March 2007

Just Wondering

Was anyone else contacted by Mid-Atlantic Research regarding a survey on downtown Columbia?

Was anyone able to find out who sponsored the survey?


Anonymous said...

I also got a call. Does anyone know what's going on?

Anonymous said...

What questions were asked?

And was it a push poll, having any loaded questions, misleading questions, or negative information to influence the opinions of those polled? Hopefully not.

Also, beyond disclosure of the entity performing the survey, were those called told at the beginning of the survey:
- who had paid for the survey and potentially had some input as to how the questions were phrased,
- just what information would be gathered during the survey,
- each of the methods used to analyze the data,
- how and with whom the individual and aggregate survey information would be shared,
- with what other existing or future databases the information would be combined and for what purposes,
- how long the data from the survey would be kept,
- and whether or not it would be reused for other purposes?

The existing Columbia plan allows for considerably more residential development within Columbia than currently exists.

If this survey wasn't done by the media, could the survey's purpose have been to somehow contend with the community's continued lack of acceptance of the message about increasing residential density above even what the current plan allows?

Jessie N said...

I got a call on Saturday as well.

The questions included (not literally, but conceptually) --
1. Was I familiar with Rouse's vision?
2. Do I feel downtown developemnt of Columbia is too much, too little, just right?
3. Should the future of downtown Columbia be based on Rouse's earlier vision?
4. What best describes my vision of downtown Columbia? A small vibrant downtown with shopping? Or a traditional downtown where I can walk to work?
5. What scenario best describes what I think will happen with more downtown development: 1) negative environmental impact by reducing greenspace, 2) increased traffic, 3) increased job and tax base or 4) increased activity and events?
6. How long have I lived in Columbia?

I asked who paid for the survey and the answer was nebulous -- "Downtown Columbia Group," or something mushy like that.

My overall impression: SOMEONE IS UP TO SOMETHING.

Anonymous said...

If accurate, that sure sounds like a push poll to me.

That list has Town Center referred to as "downtown" in 2/3 of the questions. Last time I checked, it is still officially the Village of Town Center. Rouse's goal was to create a community with the smalltown feel of Easton, in many ways similar to Ebenezer Howard's earlier visions.

If "downtown" was repeatedly used like that, was repetition being used to misapply an inappropriate city moniker to that part of Columbia? "Downtown" usually means the main business section of a city. Arguably, more business occurs in Columbia's industrial parks and Columbia Gateway, both of which are appropriately situated adjacent to more robust transportation resources. (How did the oxymoronic "industrial park" find its way into the Columbia lexicon anyway?)

And if question #4 was worded like that, that, too, sounds like a push question to me, asking for peoples' individual visions, but then leadingly limiting their choice to only those two options (when it's really not limited to just those two options).

Is this the same survey organization as is mentioned here - http://preview.tinyurl.com/ys46xh ?

wordbones said...

Anon 3:59,
"...Rouse's goal was to create a community with the smalltown feel of Easton..."

I believe you are incorrect. True, JR loved his hometown of Easton and sought to replicate that in the Columbia villages. For Town Center however he sought to create something on a larger scale. It is no accident that the mall was placed squarely in the middle of Town Center. His mall development people would have much preferred a site closer to I-95.

jessie n said...

Anon 3:59

I doubt the org you link to is at source. The surveying group had an innocuous "we do surveys" type of name.

And please do not take my questions typed above as verbatim. I took notes during the survey, asked the gentleman to repeat himself and took more notes. That's all.

Anonymous said...

Jesse, of course I didn't take your questions to be verbatim transcriptions (you did say they were conceptual, not literal) and thus my repeated use of "if".

Do you recall if the surveying organization's name matched the name Bill mentioned in the original post? If so, that name matches the name of the organization mentioned in the link.

wb, true something on a larger scale was created in Town Center, but so was much preservation of greenspace, including lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, interconnected fields and forests, parks, areas along and in the parkways, and pedestrian access to both developed and undeveloped areas. Many of the current proposals for increased density in Town Center will either harm or destroy some of those areas, reduce our enjoyment of them, or endanger the wildlife that depends on them.

Jessie N said...

Anon 23:27

The survey group is not the one mentioned in the URL earlier in this string of comments. It was something like the Mid-atlantic Survey Group.

I'd like to add an informed perspective to what I see as your connections between increased development, greenspace and endangering wildlife.

While it's true that reducing greenspace in, for example, Downtown Columbia, will "reduce our enjoyment of them" the discussion about "endangering wildlife" requires, I believe, a larger perspective.

While wildlife (mostly herbivores and birds) can exist in endless suburban areas, along with a few clumps of "greenspace," true and natural ecosystems don't. Of course, nature and critters will always find expression and existence. But that expression may not be tenable in the long run. Ecosystems need carnivores, both landed and flying, to thrive in natural balance. Carnivores need more territory per animal than herbivores, and they breed in fewer numbers than herbivores.

They need unadulterated expanses of natural terrain. Greenspace between office buildings and houses and roadways is not the type of space where one finds a diversity of carnivores.

Therefore, the "greenspace" that humans create is a tainted ecosystem that inevitably will cause harm. (For example, lots of deer, no carnivores capable of taking down a deer, deer just luuuuv oak saplings; result: very few new oaks are growing. And so on.)

That's a lot of words to say this: The argument about downtown density as being environmentally deleterious is, I believe, inaccurate. If suburban humans really want to be good stewards of the natural resources in their vicinity, one of the ways to do that is to advocate for and produce specific areas of greater density. Whether, in Columbia, this is "downtown" or some other area, I could care less. That we start to have some areas of greater density and mixed use is, I believe of importance to our human ecosystem and our natural ecosystem.

Anonymous said...


While perhaps larger natural ecosystems are pretty rare in suburbs, we are fortunate to have some large ones in our midst (Patapsco River Valley, Middle Patuxent Environmental Area, Middle Patuxent and Little Patuxent River Greenways to name a few), we have mandates in current and previous County General Plans to increase these and other greenways and their interconnections in the eastern part of the County, and we have other large areas that the County does and can ensure thriving ecosystems exist such as Centennial Park and the Smith Farm.

Many more smaller ecosystems are in our midst, too. Much of Columbia's interconnected open space areas can certainly be counted among these. Yes, these are not ideal ecosystems, having their inhabitants stressed by and their roam ranges constrained and isolated by adjacent development, but these smaller ecosystems are all the indigenous wildlife have in which to exist. We can and should, by fulfilling the County General Plan mandates, improve the quality of these ecosystems for their inhabitants' and our sakes.

I disagree that all ecosystems need carnivores, some maintaining balance just by fertility cycling with availability of foodstuffs.

I also disagree with your premise that human-created "greenspace" causes harm because it's a tainted ecosystem (lacking sufficient carnivores) to keep ravenous vegetarian deer populations at bay. Deer's primary predator east of the Appalachians, wolves (mountain lions were the only other deer predator here), were killed off by European immigrants in about 200 years, leaving deer populations here to be preyed upon solely by man since then. So, man's creating this imbalance in the environment here correctly requires man to provide responsible stewardship for the deer population. It's not the "tainted ecosystem" that's causing the secondary overconsumption of underbrush harm - it's man's lack of proper stewardship of this imbalanced ecosystem.

While remaining roam ranges are insuffiicent for reintroducing wolves and lions here, humanely coexisting with deer and managing their population can be done. There are means to do so that have been employed effectively elsewhere, but not yet here. Yet, instead of exercising proven humane field contraceptive techniques, our deer populations have been regularly subjected to questionably qualified amateurs participating in insufficiently supervised recreational hunts referred to as 'deer management', sometimes causing prolonged suffering to deer that were maimed and fled. Park records corroborate that happening in many instances during these hunts.

Moving beyond deer's predators, despite your assertion, we do still have an ample diversity of carnivores in our midst. Our suburban ecosystems still have mammallian bats, fox, coyote, and several mustelids (skunks - ever see or smell them in Symphony Woods?, otters, mink, and weasels), avian turkey vultures, eagles, hawks, heron, owls, robins, blue jays, reptilian snakes and salamanders, amphibian frogs and toads, many ichthyiod species, and many carnivorous insects, too. Without these carnivores in our midst, we would see significant rodent and insect population increases, repeating the folly of eliminating deer's balancing predators. I'm sure you've seen some of these and other carnivores about.

"The argument about downtown density as being environmentally deleterious is, I believe, inaccurate. If suburban humans really want to be good stewards of the natural resources in their vicinity, one of the ways to do that is to advocate for and produce specific areas of greater density."

"That we start to have some areas of greater density and mixed use is, I believe of importance to our human ecosystem and our natural ecosystem."

Increasing density in Town Center will be environmentally deleterious because it will consume greenspace to the detriment of its indigenous wildlife. It's that simple. **If** additional density is needed, environmentally responsible development would place that increased density in areas where greenspace has already been lost, such as the TOD-zoned intentions for the Routes 1 & 40 corridors or Baltimore and D.C., together actually incurring decreases in population totalling over 100,000 people in recent decades. So, if another 100,000 people could occupy those existing developed areas and still more could occupy brownfield areas along developed transportation corridors, how can anyone justify consuming greenspace in contradiction to County General Plan mandate to improve watersheds and Eastern County greenways?

Even then, if we are to make progress it will only be if density increases in those existing developed areas are tied to concurrent protection of other undeveloped areas. Thus far, I've not seen any such balancing preservation requirements in these proposals to even more densely develop Town Center.

jessie n said...


perhaps you should start your own blog ...